The Law Firm of Leisawitz Heller

Nursing home sued for error in reading patient's DNR health order

One of the most important documents an elderly person in Pennsylvania can have is a health care directive. Among other purposes, such documents provide instruction to health care provides about steps to be provided in a medical crisis which prevents the person from making a decision about medical care.

Perhaps the most critical instruction involves resuscitation if the patient's pulmonary system or heart functioning is compromised. Attending caregivers usually take special care to read and understand the terms of a patient's health care directive, but a recent wrongful death lawsuit alleges that a nursing home staff ignored a patient's wish to be resuscitated and that their negligence caused her death.

The woman in question was a patient in a nursing home just north of Chicago. She had been admitted for treatment of Type 2 diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, end-state renal disease, pneumonia and other ailments. Prior to her admission, she had completed a health care directive that stated that she wanted her caregivers to "render full treatment including all resuscitation efforts medically available to her in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest." According to the allegations of the complaint, the woman was found "lifeless" by a staff member at 4:18 a.m. The staff person did nothing other than call emergency dispatch to report the death. Moments later, the mistake was discovered, and the local fire department emergency unit was summoned. The responders declared the woman dead at 5:05 a.m. As may be expected, the nursing home has denied all allegations of liability.

This case raises many issues about the quality of the deceased woman's medical care and whether prompt action by the staff could have saved her life. Regardless of the final outcome, the case serves as a warning that hospital and nursing home staffs make mistakes and that a patient who has been mistreated or the family of a patient who has died as the result of such errors may have a solid case for recovering compensation for medical expenses and pain and suffering and loss of companionship. The skilled attorneys at Leisawitz Heller in Reading are experienced in dealing with mistakes made by hospital or nursing home employees, and they know how to take every step to evaluate and ensure a favorable outcome in such cases.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Lawsuit alleges Highland Park nursing home ignored resuscitation wishes," Karen Berkowitz, April 6, 2017

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