Nurse Charged With Elder Abuse and Assault

In February, California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced the arrest of a nurse, physician and a pharmacist of a skilled nursing facility in Lake Isabella, California. All were charged with elder abuse for forcibly administering psychoactive medications for their own convenience and for causing the deaths of three residents.

According to the website of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR),

…[T]he former nursing director, is reported to have ordered staff to inject numerous residents with powerful, dangerous antipsychotic medications without any medical justification. According to the charges, groups of staff held down at least two residents and injected them with drugs that reduced them to a zombie-like state. In addition to the three deaths, other residents suffered severe medical and psychological trauma. When drugging triggered behavioral problems, even stronger drugs were ordered and administered. Many residents and family members were not informed that psychoactive drugs were being used.

The year-long investigation by the Attorney General’s office was triggered by a Department of Public Health investigation in January 2007 that first documented the widespread drugging and brought a rare finding of “Immediate Jeopardy.”

“These people maliciously violated the trust of their patients, by holding them down and forcibly administering psychotropic medications if they dared to question their care,” Attorney General Brown said. “This is appalling behavior, which amounts to assault with a deadly weapon.”

“Deadly weapon” is an apt description of antipsychotic drugs when used in this fashion. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued its most dire warning – known as a black box warning – that antipsychotic drugs cause elders with dementia to die. Although the FDA has never approved use of antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia, it is estimated that up to 40 percent of nursing home residents with dementia are subjected to antipsychotic drugs, such as Zyprexa, Seroquel, Risperdal and Haldol.

Website Resources:

Attorney General Charges Nursing Home Drugging is Assault with a Deadly Weapon, California Advocates For Nursing Home Reform, February 18, 2009.

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