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Judge Tosses Manslaughter Charges Against Nursing Home Employees In Case Involving Death Of Disabled Resident

Judge Susan Grant dismissed the manslaughter charges against three nursing home employees in a case involving the death of a disabled resident at a Michigan Nursing Home.  The charges were filed in 2006 following the death of Sarah Comer at Metron Nursing Home.

Manslaughter Charges Against Nursing Home EmployeesThe case received national attention when it was revealed that Comer was transferred to Metron from a hospital in critical medical condition on a weekend when the facility was under-staffed. Shortly after her arrival at Metron Nursing Home; Comer died.  It was alleged that Comer died because the staff allowed her oxygen supply to run out.

In dismissing the manslaughter charges, Judge Grant concluded the evidence against the employees was inadequate to substantiate the charges.  Prosecutors have been unable to “show with competent and credible probable cause evidence that the lack of oxygen is what caused Comer’s death,” according to Grant.  “In fact, even though the oxygen tank was empty when Comer’s lifeless body was discovered, none of the witnesses could establish whether Comer died before or after the tank ran out,” the Judge added.

Despite the dismissal of serious criminal charges, an investigation into the incident revealed multiple procedural errors on the part of Metron’s staff.  In May 2006, Metron Integrated Health Systems, based in Grand Rapids, MI settled a claim brought by state officials for failing to properly monitor certain operations (oxygen supplies) in its nine Western Michigan nursing homes.  Metron paid a $78,015 fine to the state.

Even Judge Grant saw problems with the way Metron and the hospital handled Comer’s care.  In her rulings the Judge said there was, “plenty of blame to go around” in Comer’s death.  The Judge also questioned the hospitals decision to discharge Comer to a nursing home in her condition.  “What was the hurry to release her?” the Judge asked.

For laws related to Michigan nursing homes, look here.

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