57 families have won a 5 year fight against Mary Health of the Sick Convalescent and Nursing Hospital in Newbury Park, CA. The non-profit facility is run by a group of nuns and has a relatively good reputation in light of the accusations from the families. The nursing home is rated 5 out of 5 stars by Nursing Home Compare, the nursing home rating system managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The families contend that physicians at the facility were giving ‘black box’ antipsychotic drugs to their loved ones without obtaining the legally required consent. Black box antipsychotics carry a strong warning of the increased risks of use, including stroke and death, by elderly patients with dementia and dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
More Than a Financial Victory
In the lawsuit, the families accused the facility of falsifying consent forms saying they had received approval for use of the drugs, as well as calling family members after the drugs were given to ask them to come in a sign forms approving their use. The attorney for the nuns tells the press that the decision to settle was more about returning their full attention to caring for the residents and less about admitting guilt.
The final settlement amount is $345,000, a small amount when divided among 57 families, but the plaintiffs’ loved ones tell the press that they are hopeful that procedures will change at the facility and that they have prevented injury and heartache for other victims and their loved ones. Among the changes agreed to in the settlement is a new consent form that must be used whenever a patient is to be given an antipsychotic drug, as well as a letter sent to all physicians associated with the facility that reminds them of the risks of using black box antipsychotics. An independent reviewer will also visit the facility to ensure that the procedures are being followed.
It is worth noting that California is one of over 30 states that has a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice and injury cases, an increasingly controversial topic. Just last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1215, a bill that seeks to limit non-economic damages to $250,000 in medical malpractice, nursing home abuse and neglect, pharmaceutical and medical device lawsuits. The bill is still awaiting a vote in the Senate.
To read more about H.R. 1215 and the impact it could have on you and your loved ones, please see the following related posts.
- The Protecting Access to Care Act Barely Passes the House
- NPR Article Disparages H.R. 1215
- 80 Organizations Send Letter to Congress to Oppose H.R. 1215