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Media reports reveal a disturbing practice at nursing facilities who use “chemical straitjackets” to maintain patients who may have no need for the powerful medications given to them.

A recent investigation by The New York Times suggests a startling number of nursing facilities across the country are using questionable diagnosis of psychotic disorders in order to sedate patients.  According to the Times, one in nine nursing home patients have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, despite prevalence of the disorder in the population which suggests numbers closer to one in every 150 people with diagnosable schizophrenia.

For families or partners, placing a loved one in a nursing facility is usually a fraught decision.  Concerned for their family member, but unable to provide needed care, families may, or may not, consult government ratings. Families make their best placement choice based on finances and availability in their area along with hope for a high standard of care.  Unfortunately, hope may be out of reach in some facilities who use overmedication to maintain control, instead of providing appropriate staffing and treatment.

An investigative report by a Dallas news station revealed similar use of “chemical restraints” to keep patients sedated. When inappropriate drugs are used to sedate nursing residents, the medication can lead to cardiac events and falls.

In one nursing facility, reporters described the term used to sedate patients as taking a patient “to China.”  In instance, the patient was sedated, or put to sleep, and later taken to the hospital where she died.

Although longtime rules prohibit the use of unwarranted antipsychotic drugs for use in nursing patients, Medicare reporting excludes collection of data on drugs for three relatively uncommon conditions—one of which is schizophrenia. A report released earlier this year from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found Medicare reporting by nursing facilities may not detect true levels of antipsychotics being given to residents. Among other concerning findings, the OIG determined “nearly one-third of residents who were reported…as having schizophrenia—a diagnosis that excludes them from CMS’s measure of antipsychotic drug use—did not have any Medicare service claims for that diagnosis.”

These reports point to institutional elder-abuse occurring in nursing facilities across the country right now.  If you suspect your loved one is being drugged or has been otherwise injured in a nursing environment—speak with our legal team.

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With more than 37 years of successful experience obtaining more than one billion dollars for our clients, Schochor, Staton, Goldberg, and Cardea, P.A. is dedicated to helping those personally injured through medical mistake and negligence.  Call 410-234-1000 or contact us to set up a free consultation to discuss your case.