Articles Posted in “Angel of Death” case

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The Chicago Tribune and other local media outlets are reporting that 98-year-old nursing home resident Dorothy Byrd died last month as a result of an overdose of two powerful painkillers. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office has ruled her death a homicide. Byrd was a resident at Holland Home, an assisted living facility located at 16300 Louis Ave in South Holland, Ill.

Reports indicate that in addition to Byrd’s death, five other residents of Holland Home were hospitalized on February 3 due to unknown causes. Two of these residents also died, but the Medical Examiner is still awaiting toxicology results and has not yet released the causes of their deaths. According to the Chicago Sun-Times coverage, Byrd’s death was the result of a morphine and hydrocodone overdose.

Holland House is an assisted living facility operated by Villa Healthcare, a healthcare management company headquartered in Skokie that, according to the company’s website, operates 12 nursing homes and four assisted living facilities in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. According to the Holland Home’s website, the facility offers independent living, assisted living and memory care services.
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Last week one of the nurses involved in the “Angel of Death” Illinois nursing home abuse situation was sentenced following a plea deal being reached in her case. Our Illinois nursing home attorneys are representing one of the families involved in this tragedy in a civil lawsuit. As we’ve frequently reported, the case involves the intentional drugging of certain nursing home residents by a nurse of the facility. The nurse intentionally administered the drugs to the residents-leading to the deaths of several of them-under the notion that she was “helping” put them out of their apparent misery.

As ABC News reported, the former nurse in the case pled guilty to one count of criminal neglect. As a result of her plea deal she admitted her guilt for at least one felony. Agreeing to the deal allows her to avoid jail time, as she was instead sentenced to probation. Per the terms of the plea deal approved last week, the nurse admitted to one count of neglect so that the other five counts were dropped by prosecutors. This resulted in a two year probation sentence.

This resolution does not end the legal issues related to the drugging of residents in 2006. As often occurs in egregious cases of nursing home abuse or mistreatment like this one, the situation spawned both criminal and civil cases. For those not familiar with the working of the legal system, this can seem confusing. Criminal and civil legal cases, even if they stem from the same events, are very different. At a most basic level each case requires different elements to be proven and come with different burdens of proof regarding those elements. For example, the prosecution in the criminal case had to show that the nurse’s mental state at the time of her actions was of “criminal neglect” which is a higher level of culpability than that required to be shown in a civil case. In addition, the prosecution was required to prove that she exhibited that level of neglect “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Conversely, mere civil neglect need only be proven “by a preponderance of the evidence.”

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Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers represent the family of one victim in the case involving a former nursing home employee who has been dubbed the “Angel of Death.” The circumstances around the case have stemmed both civil and criminal lawsuits. The civil suit that our firm is handling was filed by the family of one of the victims whose loved one was killed at the Woodstock Residence after the employee intentionally doled out dangerous medications.

Earlier this week the woman at the center of the situation pled guilty in the criminal case to felony criminal neglect. As such, she admitted that she gave a patient a drug that he had never been prescribed. Sentencing has yet to proceed, but she is facing up to three years in prison for her conduct. The guilty plea was an agreement reached with prosecutors in order to avoid potentially been found guilty of similar felony neglect in five other cases. Plea agreements do not necessarily reflect anything about the evidence or proof available in a certain case, and they are a common part of the criminal justice system.

As our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyer Steven Levin noted in the Chicago Sun-Times after the plea, “We’re saddened she didn’t have to face trial on all the charges, but we’re gratified she admitted some of her guilt.”

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The nursing facility Britthaven of Chapel Hill is embroiled in a series of legal actions after several separate incidents of negligent and abusive care that occurred at the facility reports the News Observer.

A nurse at the facility, Angela Almore will head to court tomorrow in second-degree murder and patient abuse charges following the death of resident Rachel Holliday and the hospitalization of six other residents at the facility. The situation has been dubbed an “Angel of Death” case, as Ms. Almore is charged with giving Ms. Holliday and the six others extreme doses of morphine. None of the patients had been prescribed any morphine at all. The state health regulation department is still investigating the nursing home’s own involvement with those incidents

The unlawful morphine poisonings are just one of several negligent and abusive incidents uncovered at the facility this year. One resident, former medical professor and Nobel Prize nominee Marian Orlowski went to the facility following advancing dementia and need for close monitored care. However, the nursing home staff at Britthaven failed to provide proper supervision (or even a bed with rails), resulting in Mr. Orlowski failing and suffering sever physical injury, including a broken hip.

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A caregiver at a North Carolina nursing home was charged with murdering Rachel Holliday, an 84-year-old Alzheimer’s nursing home resident, with morphine. The nursing home caregiver, Angela Almore, also faces charges of felony abuse, which are related to the hospitalization of six other Alzheimer’s patients whom authorities suspect she also gave morphine. This investigation began when authorities suspected abuse after the Alzheimer’s patients tested positive for morphine. The State believes that the patients were likely given morphine to make them more manageable.

Overmedication is a problem that arises too often in nursing homes. An October report in the Chicago Tribune investigated this issue, finding that nursing home staff will resort to overmedicating their residents in order to make it easier to manage them. This usually stems from nursing homes being understaffed or insufficiently trained to handle the complex needs of residents with dementia. Of course, this decision to overmedicate, or to medicate without a physician’s order, is against the standard of care. Further, overmedicating residents in nursing homes can have potentially detrimental effects on their health, and can deteriorate their fragile and vulnerable nature. As evidenced by the article mentioned above, and many similar cases throughout the country, overmedication can and does cause death in nursing home residents.

Our attorneys at Levin & Perconti are very familiar with the effects of overmedicating nursing home residents. Most recently, one of our attorneys, Partner, Steve Levin, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the licensee of Woodstock Residence, in Woodstock, IL, a former nurse, and former nursing director, for administering a heavy dose of morphine that caused the premature death of a resident.

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The Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers of Levin & Perconti filed an amended complaint in the McHenry County Circuit Court yesterday in a lawsuit against Woodstock Residence. Our attorneys represent the family of Virginia Cole in a civil lawsuit against the nursing home and two former employees. The original complaint alleges that the nursing home and named employees administered lethal doses of morphine that led to Cole’s death at the age of 78. The amended complaint adds the medical director at the time of Cole’s death as a defendant, alleging that the director was negligent in his care of Cole. The complaint alleges that the medical director diagnosed Cole incorrectly, neglected to determine if she was in pain before he ordered morphine and failed to make sure the nursing home was handling controlled substances, such as morphine, properly.

According to Illinois nursing home attorney Steve Levin, the lawsuit does not allege that the named medical director was aware that employees were giving Cole and other nursing home residents unneeded doses of morphine, a narcotic pain killer that is used to treat severe pain. The medical director was also named in a wrongful death suit that was filed on behalf of another Woodstock resident whose death is in question.

In addition to the civil wrongful death lawsuit, a criminal lawsuit has also been filed against the two former employees. We will continue to provide news and information on the “Angel of Death” case in McHenry County as it becomes available. To read the Northwest Herald‘s coverage of the nursing home lawsuit, click on the hyperlink.

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The Northwest Herald recently reported that the State of Illinois will give Penny Whitlock $10,000 to pay for a defense expert witness. Whitlock is accused allowing another staff member to administer fatal doses of morphine to residents at Woodstock Residence, a Woodstock, IL nursing home that is now under new ownership. Recently, the defendant testified that she has spent over $100,000 to defend herself in court. The State of Illinois’ financial assistance would pay for an expert forensic toxicologist to testify.

The Daily Herald reports that Whitlock faces five counts of criminal neglect and two counts for obstructing justice. She is accused of failing to report that another staff member, Marty Himebaugh, was giving residents high doses of morphine. She is also accused of allowing Himebaugh to administer the drugs. The McHenry County prosecutor asked that she be held responsible for paying the county back if she is convicted.

The Illinois nursing home neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti represent the family of one of the residents whose death is in question. Our attorneys filed a civil lawsuit against the nursing home, alleging that the nursing home’s administration was aware that staff was administering morphine to residents without an order or outside prescribed parameters. As a result, our 78-year-old client died. We will continue to update our nursing home blog with related stories as both the civil and criminal cases unfold. To read the Daily Herald‘s report on the Woodstock Residence case follow the link.

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Yesterday, Illinois State Police investigators testified that a former nursing home supervisor at Woodstock Residence was aware that a fellow nurse was administering fatal doses of morphine to four residents of the nursing home. According to police testimony, several nurses came to Penny Whitlock to make her aware of what Marty Himebaugh, the “Angel of Death”, was doing, but Whitlock did not report it to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Because of this neglect, she faces charge of criminal neglect and obstructing justice.

Chicago nursing home lawyer Steve Levin of Levin & Perconti currently represents the family of one of Himebaugh’s victims. Levin filed a civil lawsuit last September against Woodstock Residence, Himebaugh and Whitlock.

To read more about the Angel of Death criminal lawsuit, follow the link.