Friday, February 22, 2008

Can homicide occur by willful and wanton neglect?

I begin by saying I can not give out details because of pending litigation and on-going investigations by a couple of organizations. (Some details may have been changed here)

A gentleman had been confined to a care facility for a while because of his inability to care for himself due to psychiatric problems. While at the facility he developed a “failure to thrive” syndrome, malnutrition with significant weight loss. A short while before his death he was admitted to a hospital for evaluation to ascertain if their was a medical reason for his failing status, that evaluation revealed no significant disease processes to explain his condition. He was returned to the care facility.

The day before his death staff at the facility became concerned (his failing seemed to be accelerating) and expressed that concern to his physician who asked that he be transported to the hospital where his recent evaluation had taken place. That hospital was apparently over-full and was not accepting ambulance traffic. Upon hearing this, the patient’s doctor told the staff to get him taken to another hospital, one that was close by. Here things get a bit fuzzy; the gentleman was not transported that day.

The next morning the gentleman was noted to be having difficulty breathing and looked worse to staff. The staff called the gentleman’s doctor who was surprised, to say the least, that the gentleman was still at the facility. The doctor again told the staff to get him sent to the closest hospital. A private ambulance company was called to transport the gentleman and they informed staff that they would pick him up in 30-45 minutes. When the ambulance called and said that they would arrive in 15 minutes the gentleman was checked in preparation for transport. At that point he was found to be dead by facility personnel. The ambulance was called and told that they were no longer needed. The patient’s doctor was notified, the facility administrator was notified and the Coroner was notified.

The finding of the Coroner’s Office: Death was due to a pulmonary embolism, contributing to this was a “blatant disregard for medical care” The manner of death was ruled a “homicide” (death at the hand of another).

Regulatory agencies are now involved in further investigation, as is State law enforcement.

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