Frontline Reveals Sad & Shocking Story About Elder Abuse

Frontline revealed a sad story that may stun those who do not know much about the rise of eldeautopsy_rates_2008_111220.jpgr abuse in this country. Its investigators focused on a number of cases, one of which was that of a retired U.S. government scientist.

Mr. Shepter had spent his final years in a Mountain Mesa, CA nursing home. A stroke had paralyzed much of his body, while dementia had eroded his ability to communicate.

Shepter died in January 2007 at 76. His nursing home chief medical officer explained on his death certificate that his cause of death was heart failure due primarily to clogged arteries.

Shepter’s family did not question this and the local coroner did not probe further.

Then, a tip off from a nursing home staffer led state officials to reexamine the case and find a set of different conclusions.

They found that Shepter had actually died from a combination of illnesses, most related to poor care, including an infected ulcer, pneumonia, dehydration, and sepsis. Powerful antipsychotic drugs also likely sped up Shepter’s demise, which often have lethal side effects for elderly patients.

Prosecutors charged that nursing home medical officer, Dr. Pormir, along with two of his former colleagues with killing Shepter and two other residents at that home. The criminal case is ongoing, while health care regulators have already severely restricted his license and fined the home $150,000.

Frontline investigators learned the following, which I hope will help inform any of you who may have recently faced a death of a loved senior:

When treating physicians report that a death is natural, coroners and medical examiners almost never investigate. But doctors often get it wrong. In one 2008 study, nearly half the doctors surveyed failed to identify the correct cause of death for an elderly patient with a brain injury caused by a fall.

In most states, doctors can fill out a death certificate without ever seeing the body. That explains how a Pennsylvania physician said her 83-year-old patient had died of natural causes when, in fact, he’d been beaten to death by an aide. The doctor never saw the 16-inch bruise that covered the man’s left side.

Autopsies of seniors have become increasingly rare even as the population age 65 or older has grown. Between 1972 and 2007, a government analysis  found, the share of U.S. autopsies performed on seniors dropped from 37 percent to 17 percent.

About Kevin
Kevin Coluccio was recently named one of the Top 10 Super Lawyers in Washington State. He has long history of successful elder abuse/neglect cases and has a stellar reputation for getting results for his injury clients in serious car crashes, pedestrian accidents, trucking accidents, maritime claims, and asbestos injury cases.