As we have discussed in multiple posts, and as has been followed in the news in recent weeks, a 98-year old resident of a nursing home in South Holland, Illinois, died in a mysterious incident in early February 2015. At first it was unclear what had happened, and initially news outlets reported that the victim was one of six residents who experienced abnormal blood pressures and respiratory issues.
However, the other five residents initially survived those ailments, while the 98-year old resident passed away (the causes of their problems were as yet deemed unknown; by early March, two of the other victims – aged 88 and 98, had passed away, though any connection to this initial incident is unclear). Fire officials ruled out any gas or carbon monoxide poisoning. Authorities opened investigations into the matter, including conducting a toxicology test. A nurse at the facility was suspended after these latter deaths.
Weeks later, authorities announced that the victim was given overdoses of morphine and hydrocodone, which are two powerful and also potentially dangerous opiate painkillers. The doses were so extreme that it led to a declaration that the resident’s death was a homicide.
Unfortunately, the overdose of medication, including painkillers, is a problem at nursing homes. It is bad enough that such overdoses could occur as a matter of negligence or recklessness on the part of a facility nurse or nursing aide, but in many cases the overdoses are administered with the horrific intent to kill the patient. Sometimes, these can actually be part of a string of serial murders. Along with the disturbing notion that some staffers are prone to take such horrible action, some incidents can be attributed to understaffing by facilities in an attempt to reduce overhead and increase profits, all while residents receive less attention than needed and staffers look for easy shortcuts to handle patients, or even kill them.
Investigations by the Authorities
When accidents or intentional acts that cause injury to or death of a resident of a nursing home occurs, both the federal government and states governments generally have authority to inspect nursing homes to ensure they are up to code. The government’s relevant agencies, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or a state agency like the Illinois Department of Public Health, or sometimes a state Attorney General’s Medicaid and Medicaid Fraud Unit, will inspect homes after specific incidents as well not just to determine what happened to a resident and why, but to ensure that other residents are safe at a particular facility.
Call for Independent Investigator
In this particular case, after ruling the victim’s death a homicide, authorities are now looking into whether the two subsequent deaths (mentioned above) were also caused by similar painkiller or medication overdoses. Now, the daughter of the 98-year old victim – the first one to die out of the six ill patients – has called for an independent investigation into both her mother’s death and the deaths of the other two residents. While the IDPH is looking into whether the South Holland facility is compliant with laws and regulations and whether residents there are safe or at risk, there is obviously the notion that another separate process and perspective may be necessary. While there is no news on whether that may happen, the mysterious illnesses and deaths of residents at South Holland indicate that there may be a serious problem, and that aggressive oversight, from an independent consultant or by the government, may be vital to not just find answers, but to ensure the safety of other residents.
See Related Blog Posts: