Nursing Home Negligence

Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

I read a news report of an incident that occurred in the State of Indiana wherein a registered nurse at a nursing home facility removed a patient’s oxygen without a doctor’s order. According to the report, “[a]fter a state health inspection, the nursing home was cited for several violations, including abuse and neglect. Indiana’s Attorney General is now investigating and the nurse could face criminal charges.”

This event occurred during the worst surge of coronavirus cases in that state and nationally. The nurse claims that she “forgot” to get a doctor’s order while tending to a number of critically ill patients. She describes the incident as occurring after the patient had been treating for severe respiratory effects of Covid-19 over several weeks. The patient was exhausted and wanted her to remove the life-support equipment so that he could “go dance with the angels.”

First, I would like to know more about this incident before concluding that it constitutes nursing home negligence, abuse or neglect. To be sure, removal of life-support equipment requires a physician’s order. Further, the physician’s order has to be based upon the patient’s wishes or, if the patient is not able to provide consent, the family’s informed decision. In the limited facts that we have available, it seems as though the nurse was acting at the patient’s request, with the patient’s full knowledge and consent.

End of life decisions pose many ethical, legal and moral questions. When you add diverse religious considerations and the emotional toll that end-of-life decisions take on family members, the result is not always pretty. Ideally, the patient will self-determine how much treatment to undergo at the end of life. If the patient is not able to make a decision, they will ideally identify an individual family member to carry the burden of final decision-making. But the patient may not be able to perform their own decision-making or, in the event of the increasing numbers of unexpected mortal injuries from opioid overdoses, unsuccessful suicide attempts and violence, prearranged decision-making is not possible.

Considering the Indiana case, it is true that the nurse was negligent in failing to obtain the doctor’s permission to and the patient’s life. Failure to act on an order constitutes nursing negligence.  But there is more to the claim.  Was the family truly harmed when the nurse acted with the patient’s knowledge and consent? The fact is that had the nurse taken the step of getting the doctor’s permission to remove the life support equipment at the patient’s request, the same result would have occurred. Under these circumstances, the nurse should be penalized in some way, perhaps by State Board of Nursing placing her on suspension for a few days. One has to be sympathetic to the nurse’s plight in light of the fact that she too was exhausted, having cared for a number of critically ill nursing home patients leading up to this event.

In determining whether there is a case of nursing home negligence, including nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect, a nursing home negligence lawyer should look at all of the facts to determine whether extenuating circumstances exist that, while not legal, are morally and ethically sound.  If you or a family member are the victim of nursing home negligence contact a nursing home abuse attorney, in Cleveland, OH, like the office of Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co., L.P.A. to determine your rights.