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$10M Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Against Nursing Home Over DNR Signed by Elderly Patient

The children of the elderly woman pleaded with hospital staffers to save their mother, who was suffering from bedsores and pneumonia. The staffers had the resources. They had the tools and the equipment. What they didn’t have, they say, was permission. The woman had previously signed a do-not-resuscitate order. However, her children say the elderly woman lacked the mental capacity to sign such an order – something they tried in vain to argue with the staff as their mother was fighting for her life. She died in that hospital bed of her ailments in 2012. She was 67.

Now, Courtroom View Network is covering the developments of the civil lawsuit filed in Texas by her children who alleged medical malpractice against the hospital, the nursing home where she lived for years, the doctor for the nursing home and the physician’s assistant there. There were five opening statements from the defense side – one for each of the five defendants, who are individually represented.

Plaintiffs’ attorney posited to jurors during opening statements that decedent died of pneumonia which was the result of bedsores which were the direct result of nursing home negligence. Further, plaintiff lawyer accused the nursing home of wrongly allowing patient to sign a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order, and also of allowing a neighbor to have medical power of attorney – even though at that time, she suffered signs of severe mental illness. 

The nursing home, meanwhile, contends that the bedsores were not the result of nursing home neglect, but rather unavoidable despite her receiving the appropriate level of treatment (an assertion our nursing home abuse lawyers would highly doubt). The hospital also contends it was legally bound to honor that DNR request, even if it was contrary to the wishes of decedent’s children, from whom she had allegedly been estranged for some time.

Although plaintiffs’ attorney did not specify a damage award, defense lawyers contend it is somewhere around $10 million.

Plaintiffs say their mother had a long and documented history of psychosis, bipolar disorder and severe depression. This history was known when she was transferred to the nursing home several years earlier directly from a state mental hospital, to which she had been involuntarily committed. This information was on her admission paperwork to both the nursing home and the hospital. The DNR and medical power of attorney paperwork she signed, plaintiffs say, indicated her children need not be informed if she became incapacitated.

Court records indicate decedent first started to develop pressure ulcers on her buttocks and heels sometime in 2011. There is reportedly no documentation of her between then and her death being placed on any type of a special mattress or of having her body rotated on a regular basis so the sores wouldn’t get worse. These worsening infections wore down decedent’s immune system, leaving her vulnerable to pneumonia, which is a leading cause of death for nursing home patients.

Once she was taken to the hospital, staffers there became aware of the DNR order, and they refused to put her on a ventilation system so she could get adequate oxygen. Her children say that once they raised legitimate concerns regarding the validity of that DNR order, the hospital should not have simply stood automatically by their earlier position.

The hospital’s lawyer said the children were “completely estranged” from their mother, who had developed a relationship with her neighbor through the church. The power-of-attorney orders, he said, were valid and signed by not just the patient and the neighbor, but by two witnesses and a physician.

The case highlights why if possible, these matters should be worked out with an attorney prior to an emergency situation.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

$10M Nursing Home Malpractice Trial Begins Over Bedsore Treatment, Validity of Mentally Ill Woman’s DNR Order, Dec. 11, 2016, By David Siegel, CVN

More Blog Entries:

GAO: Most States Don’t Track Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes, Dec. 17, 2016, Wrongful Death Attorney Blog

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