Many patients in nursing homes have do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders on file to keep staff aware of their end of life wishes. While such decisions are indeed quite personal and should be respected by the facility, my guess is that these DNR orders were intended to encompass situations where a patient was theoretically suffering from an illness or similar situation that was brought about the inherent aging process— as opposed to an injury inflicted by a staff member at a nursing home.
It is particularly disturbing when nursing home staff members take it upon themselves to make such a vital decision– whether or not to intervene– in the moments following an acute injury. The delay in providing medical attention for an acute decision is not only disingenuous, but frequently made for selfish reasons– mainly because it could theoretically conceal an erroneous or abusive act.
Recently filed lawsuit
Such prickly issues began to rear their head in a recently filed wrongful death lawsuit by the family of a nursing home patient who allegedly choked to death on food that was improperly served to her that was not appropriate according to her dietary plan. According to reports of the lawsuit, the disabled patient’s physician ordered staff at the skilled nursing facility to feed her a diet of ‘chopped’ food.
It is alleged that the vocational nurse who feeding the patient ignored the orders of the doctor and fed the woman a ‘large piece’ of meat. The meat clogged the woman’s airway and she quickly became unresponsive. While emergency responders were called, life saving efforts were not fully performed due to a DNR on file– essentially allowing the patient to die. Moreover, rather that accurately disclose the error in allowing the patient to each meat, the nurse falsely told the paramedics that the patient choked on rice.
Jurors don’t like liars
From a legal posturing, I’m sure most of these instances will very much backfire against the nursing homes when jurors learn that the entire episode was brought about by an error made by nursing home staff and further attempted to conceal by allowing the patient to pass. While we will await for this case to progress through the court system, I would hope that facilities help employees distinguish between a situation where a DNR is appropriately followed as opposed to viewing such a document as a potential way to cover up an erroneous act.