Archive for the ‘Coroner’ Category

Gone Without a Case: Suspicious Elder Deaths Rarely Investigated

December 28, 2011

Nothing, it seemed, was unusual about Joseph Shepter’s death.

A retired U.S. government scientist, Shepter spent his final two years dwelling in a nursing home in Mountain Mesa, Calif., a small town northeast of Bakersfield. A stroke had paralyzed much of his body, while dementia had eroded his ability to communicate.

He died in January 2007 at age 76. On Shepter’s death certificate, Dr. Hoshang Pormir, the nursing home’s chief medical officer, explained that the cause was heart failure brought on by clogged arteries.

Shepter’s family had no reason to doubt it. The local coroner never looked into the death. Shepter’s body was interred in a local cemetery.

But a tip from a nursing-home staffer would later prompt state officials to re-examine the case and reach a very different conclusion.

When investigators reviewed Shepter’s medical records, they determined that he had actually died of a combination of ailments often related to poor care, including an infected ulcer, pneumonia, dehydration and sepsis.

Investigators also concluded that Shepter’s demise was hastened by the inappropriate administration of powerful antipsychotic drugs, which can have potentially lethal side effects for seniors.

Prosecutors in 2009 charged Pormir and two former colleagues with killing Shepter and two other elderly residents. They’ve pleaded not guilty. The criminal case is ongoing.

Full Article and Source:
Gone Without a Case: Suspicious Elder Deaths Rarely Investigated

See Also:
Post Mortem: Death Investigation in America

Autopsies in the USA

>Concerns Raised About Cost of Calling Coroners for Nursing Home Deaths

February 21, 2011

>Kentucky prosecutors, law enforcement officers, coroners and officials have said they think it would be helpful if coroners were called whenever someone dies in a nursing home. Evidence could be gathered and, if abuse or neglect had occurred, cases could be prosecuted.

But a bill that would require Kentucky nursing homes to report all deaths to the local coroner is in trouble in the General Assembly.

Tracey Corey, the state’s chief medical examiner, estimates that if even 10 percent of the additional cases generated by the proposed law are turned over to her office for further evaluation, she would need three more doctors, more support staff and additional equipment for the required investigations, said Jennifer Brislin, a spokeswoman for the Justice Cabinet.

Despite concerns about costs, Corey supports the intent of House Bill 69, Brislin said. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, would require a specific staff member at a long-term care facility and hospice to report all deaths to the county coroner within 24 hours.

Concerns Raised About Cost of Calling Coroners for Nursing Home Deaths

See Also:
Coroners Help Facility Death Investigations

>Coroners Help Facility Death Investigations

January 21, 2011

>The coroner in Morgan County, Ill., notified nursing home investigators last year when he determined that a nursing home resident had died after choking on a piece of ham.

Coroner Jeff Lair, who asks that nursing homes in his county report all deaths to him, said investigators then cited the facility because the resident was supposed to be on a special diet and be supervised while eating but was not.

The coroner in Effingham County, Ill., also contacts state officials about nursing home deaths.

“We have to speak for these people,” said Leigh Hammer, Effingham’s coroner. “We have to give them a voice. Just because they are elderly doesn’t mean that they were meant to die.”

Kentucky does not require nursing homes to report most deaths to coroners, who are rarely called even when abuse or neglect are suspected. However, that might change if a bill proposed by Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, passes.

Burch is meeting Wednesday with state officials and nursing home representatives to discuss a law that would require the facilities to notify coroners about all deaths.

The state medical examiner’s office is working with Burch to see that “suspicious deaths and elder abuse are investigated to the fullest extent possible,” said Jennifer Brislin, a spokeswoman for the office.

The Kentucky bill requires a specific staff member at long-term care facilities and hospices to report all deaths to the county coroner within 24 hours. It also requires coroners to involve police or prosecutors if they suspect abuse or neglect.

The bill is intended to give coroners discretion in choosing which deaths need to be reviewed by other officials, Burch said.

Full Article and Source:
States Say Coroners Help in Nursing Home Deaths