Saturday, January 22, 2011

Doctor Vs. Patient's Wife

Al Barnes has been in eight hospitals in the past 10 months. His diagnoses include end-stage respiratory distress, renal failure, dementia and other maladies.

Now the 85-year-old from Scandia, Minn., is at the center of a wrenching and unusual court struggle over who will control his medical care.

A doctor at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park will go to court Wednesday, seeking to replace Barnes' wife with a substitute decision-maker and arguing that she is making futile and reckless decisions to prolong her husband's life.

The case, scheduled to be heard in Hennepin County Probate Court, pits not just Methodist but the opinions of several Twin Cities hospitals against a woman who believes her husband can recover from his vegetative state. While Barnes is being fed via a tube and breathing through a ventilator, Lana Barnes said that is because of treatable infections and fluid buildup in his brain that is often misdiagnosed.

"I know my husband. I know I'm not crazy. I know that Al is there," said Barnes, 56, who was placed in charge of her husband's care several years ago through his written health care directive. She filed paperwork Tuesday to move the case to a Chisago County court nearer to her home in Scandia.

Methodist is but the latest hospital to assume Barnes' care, and to clash with his wife in a case that raises highly charged questions about the care of gravely ill patients.

Full Article and Source:
Wrenching Court Case - Doctor vs. Patient's Wife

Impeached Federal Judge Has Law License Revoked

U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr., who was impeached and removed from the Louisiana bench last month, resigned from practicing law, the state's Supreme Court ruled.

Porteous, 64, is the eighth federal judge to be convicted by the U.S. Senate and removed from office through impeachment. He was convicted on four articles of impeachment by the Senate in December 2010 and barred from holding any federal office.

The Louisiana Supreme Court announced that it had granted Porteous' request for resignation in lieu of discipline.

Full Article and Source:
Impeached Federal Judge Has Law License Revoked

See Also:
For Judges, Inconsistent Use of Ethics Rule is Evident

Widow Cleared of Murder Avoids Guardianship

An Oakland County judge rejected a request to appoint a guardian to oversee a Farmington Hills woman who was cleared last year of charges she murdered her husband with amateur surgery.

Concerns were expressed in court about the ability of Laura Lynn Johnson, 46, to comprehend ongoing proceedings in which authorities are seeking to permanently sever her parental rights to her two sons from a previous marriage. The boys, ages 8 and 10, were removed from her custody after the Sept. 22 death of Johnson's second husband, attorney Lloyd G. Johnson, 47.

Lloyd Johnson died two days after being hospitalized with a heart attack, but Laura Johnson was charged with second-degree murder and practicing medicine without a license after police found bloody sheets, human tissue and a dead dog in the couple's Farmington Hills home.

She was released and the charges dropped when an autopsy determined Lloyd Johnson died from complications related to a lingering wound from an old boating accident.

It was disclosed in a 2009 court filing that Laura Johnson had a diagnosed mental illness of paranoid personality disorder with schizophrenic features and an addiction to pain medication.

[Judge]Hallmark declined to appoint a guardian for Laura Johnson, but referred concerns about her behavior to her lawyer Deborah McKelvy.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Won't Name Guardian for Lawyer's Widow Cleared of His Murder

Friday, January 21, 2011

Coroners Help Facility Death Investigations

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

ND Chief Justice Calls for Study of Elder Abuse

North Dakota Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle appealed for state lawmakers to look into ways to help older residents avoid being abused or financially exploited.

“I am convinced that this is an area that North Dakota can no longer wait to confront,” VandeWalle said in a speech to a joint session of the North Dakota House and Senate.

By tradition, North Dakota’s chief justice briefs the Legislature on judicial issues when lawmakers meet every two years.

Two years ago, VandeWalle appealed for the Legislature to order a study of public administrator and guardianship services for the elderly. The request was passed over.

Public administrators, normally employed by counties, oversee the affairs of people who cannot care for themselves and do not have a friend or family member willing to help them.

VandeWalle said a shortage of public guardians and limited resources for nonprofit agencies that provide guardian services “all contribute to conditions that make it easier to take advantage of the elderly.”

The North Dakota Data Center at North Dakota State University has estimated that within 20 years, about one-third of the residents of 39 of North Dakota’s 53 counties will be at least 65 years old.

“An aging population requires a comprehensive network of programs and services to ensure that our elderly are able to remain healthy and safe,” VandeWalle said. “This is a big subject, with many components, but I know that if we take on this issue as a state, the task will be less daunting.”

Full Article and Source:
N.D. Chief Justice VandeWalle Says Elder Care Study is Needed

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Editorial: Victory Over Conservatorship

Can elderly persons with dementia be cured? Even if it was said likely to be of the Alzheimer’s type?

I want to share the amazing recovery of my mother.

After having been diagnosed as having dementia by more than one evaluator favored by professional conservators, the conservatorship of her person was finally lifted on December 16, 2010, after she went through a five-year struggle to obtain her freedom, her human rights, and her dignity. She has now been restored to being regarded by the court as a capable person. While before, Judge McLafferty refused to accept her positive mental evaluation and doctor’s letter, now the court has set her free. She is said to have recovered.

What has accomplished this miracle of healing? Publicity, and having a new probate judge, Colleen Sterne, certainly didn’t hurt.

My mother’s estate, or money, is still under conservatorship, as there are allegations of undue influence by a relative profiting off her as trustee.

The last judge accepted allegations as truth, without evidence, including allegations about my mother’s mental condition. Hopefully, Judge Sterne will pay heed to the words of County Supervisor Joni Gray, spoken at the June 6, 2010 Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting, that the word probate means to prove.

My mother’s already lost several hundred thousand dollars to professional conservators and their network. Imagine if all this money had gone to charities rather than predators. Conservators not infrequently claim to care about the elders whose estates they deplete and whose properties they acquire. I witnessed a homeless elderly woman walking the streets, mumbling. Why don’t these conservators and the court system care about this poor woman? Give her some large amount of money and they’ll care about her real fast. Instead, she is left to possibly die out there, like the 41 homeless persons in Santa Barbara who perished last year in the elements. If half the professional conservators’ profits went to help such people, so much could be accomplished.

Victory Over Conservatorship

Press Release: IQ Nursing Homes

IQ Nursing has outlined the resident rights provided to nursing home residents under elder abuse law. Federal and state nursing home laws require that elder care facilities provide high quality and individualized care to each nursing home resident. Furthermore, these regulations protect nursing home residents who complain about substandard care from retaliation. When a nursing facility or employee violates the rights of a nursing home resident, they have the option of filing a complaint against the nursing home and/or taking legal action in cases of serious elder abuse. If you have made the difficult decision of placing a loved one in a nursing home facility, it's important that you learn the rights provided to nursing home residents. Visit for an overview of nursing home resident rights.

Federal law provides nursing home residents with a set of rights, known collectively as the resident's bill of rights. Examples of nursing home resident rights include the following: the right to access medical records; the right to refuse treatment; the right to complain without retaliation; the right to be free from unnecessary physical or chemical restraints; the right to privacy; and the right to be free from nursing home abuse or neglect. In addition, because many cases of nursing home abuse and neglect result from staffing shortages, nursing home facilities are also required by law to uphold certain staffing standards to ensure the highest levels of well-being for their residents.

Although elderly residents are awarded certain nursing home rights, some facilities, either unknowingly or intentionally, may violate these basic rights. If you suspect your loved one is being abused in a nursing home or otherwise deprived of their nursing home resident rights, you can receive a free online case review by visiting IQ Nursing This case review is being offered at no cost and can help determine whether you can take legal action on behalf of your loved one.

About IQ Nursing Homes:

IQ Nursing Homes has partnered with nursing home lawyers and nursing home negligence law firms throughout the country with the goal of putting a stop to the victimization of the elderly. By holding negligent staff members accountable for their actions and making it financially devastating for nursing homes to allow neglect to occur, this destructive pattern of nursing home neglect can be put to an end. Visit to receive a free, no obligation nursing home abuse case evaluation.

Nursing Home Resident Rights Outlined by IQ Nursing

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Virginia: AG Proposed Bill To Prevent Elder Abuse

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says our population is aging, which is why he wants to do what he can to better protect Virginia's senior citizens.

Right now, the Attorney General's Medicare and Medicaid Fraud and Elderly Abuse Unit consists of 70 people: nurses, ex-federal agents, auditors and others. They do undercover work as well as forensic analysis.

But you might be surprised to learn that it is limited in its power to investigate nursing homes under state law.

Ken Cuccinelli says his legislative proposal would fix that.

He says right now, investigators can only get the records of Medicare and Medicaid patients in nursing homes who are suspected of being abused because there are state and federal dollars involved.

If you don't have Medicare or Medicaid, the Attorney General's office can't help, and can't investigate possible abuse because it's against state law.

Cuccinelli's legislative proposal would allow his unit to subpoena *all* the records from the nursing home facility being investigated. One reason could be to see if there is a pattern of abuse or neglect that is systemic to the facility (ie. management, etc.), and not just isolated to maybe one staffer taking care of that one Medicaid patient who was reported to the Attorney General's office.

"There's this gaping hole in terms of getting these medical records which are key to figuring out in abuse and neglect cases what's going on. We need nurses and investigators to look at the information. What we're seeking during this session is the ability to use subpoena power where we believe elder abuse might be taking place, so we can further analyze those records", says Cuccinelli.

Cuccinelli says his proposal is being sponsored by House Delegate Chris Peace (R-Hanover), and State Senator Ralph Smith (R-22nd).

Attorney General Proposes Bill to Prevent Elderly Abuse

Assisted Suicide or Granny Snatching?

A Massachusetts man was charged with manslaughter in Connecticut last week, in what is being referred to as the assisted suicide, or mercy killing, of his Alzheimer’s afflicted father.

Remarkably, the commentary sections of the on-line versions of the news story quickly filled with remarks from outraged caregivers detailing the difficulties encountered in caring for elderly relatives, especially those who are in serious physical and mental decline and living a life of unending pain. The overwhelming attitude among the early comments was that the son had done his father an enormous and loving favor by helping him end his life through a combination of pills and alcohol.

But as the news media and elder activists erupted in a firestorm of debate over mercy killing in America, an elderly Canadian woman’s life also is on the line in a courtroom in Victoria, British Columbia, and no one except her family seems to give a damn. Nonetheless, the case of Kathleen Palamarek, whose sons want her confined to an institution while her daughter and son-in-law are fighting to free her, could well set an international precedent impacting the future of tens of millions of American and Canadian elderly citizens.

Full Article and Source:
Assisted Suicide or Granny Snatching: Liberty or Death?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Doctor Could Get Millions For Blowing the Whistle

A Manhattan doctor could reap a huge paycheck for exposing Medicaid fraud.

Federal prosecutors say Dr. Gabriel Feldman helped uncover New York City's attempt to bilk taxpayers out of more than $60 million by overbilling Medicaid. If prosecutors are successful in their attempt to recover the cash, Feldman stands to get a 15% to 20% cut of the money because of the city's whistleblower tax.

That means Feldman could receive $9 to $12 million for exposing fraud.

The feds say the city improperly approved 24-hour home care for thousands of low-income, elderly patients, even against the recommendations of doctors paid to review the cases.

Full Article and Source:
Doctor Could Get Millions for Blowing the Whistle on Medicaid Fraud

Fair Oaks Nursing Home Closed After Abuse Caught on 'Grannycam'

Stories of nursing home abuse are devastating and, it seems as if we are reporting on them with increasing frequency. Sadly, another shocking case of nursing home abuse is making headlines again, this time in Fair Oaks, California.

Sean Suh installed a so-called “Grannycam” beside his grandmother’s bed just after she was moved into residential care, said the Sacramento Bee. Suh wanted to ensure that staff was aware that his grandmother, Kyong Hui Duncan, was being watched and that her family cared for her. Duncan, said the Bee, could no longer live on her own; the decision was a difficult one and, sadly, it was while Suh was looking for another facility that his grandmother, 73, died from a variety of problems Suh says were a direct result of abuse she suffered at Fair Oaks Residential Elderly Care.

Suh found the granny-cam unplugged on a number of his visits to his grandmother—one of the reasons the family was seeking a new facility; however, a short video was recorded in which staff is seen “violently shaking” Duncan while in her wheelchair, said the Bee. That clip has become an integral part of California’s decision to shut down Fair Oaks and in the civil lawsuit filed by Duncan’s family in which abuse, neglect, and wrongful death are alleged. “I have nightmares about it,” Suh said of the videotape. “It’s very hard for me to function, knowing she went through that,” quoted the Bee.

An investigation was prompted by Suh’s complaint and led to the California Department of Social Services ordering Myung S. and Jay J. Kim, the facility’s operators, to shut down Thursday, said the Bee. California is seeking permanent revocation of the home’s license, added the Bee. The 15 residents at the facility were placed by day’s end.

The Kim’s dispute all of the allegations. Regardless, California’s suspension order accuses Fair Oaks of “violating the personal rights of residents,” and involves the video in which a staff member moved Duncan to her wheelchair, then “dumped” the chair—while Duncan was in it—backward while shaking the wheelchair, the Bee reported. Other allegations include that staff did not appropriately restrain Duncan and neglected to respond to her in a timely manner after she had fallen, said the Bee. The family also alleges that they found Duncan crying, unattended and upside down in her wheelchair, said the state, wrote the Bee. There were also occasions in which Duncan suffered from bruises and untreated infections.

Full Article and Source:
California Nursing Home Closed After Abuse Caught on Grannycam

'The Nursing Home Guide'

The lowdown on long-term care—from a geriatric specialist with over twenty years in the field.

Placing loved ones in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities is a stressful decision—and for good reason. In previous decades, some homes were plagued by scandal, and everyone wants to know that their family members will be safe and sound even when they can’t be nearby all the time. Here, prominent geriatrician Joshua Schor, M.D., guides the reader through this emotionally challenging process step by step, covering such topics as:

• The small—and revealing—details to watch for when touring a home
• Determining whether a family member needs long-term or sub-acute care
• Deciding whether assisted living may be a viable alternative
• Questions to ask about medications, meals, and activities
• Knowing your rights and getting the information you need
• Special concerns for younger patients
• And more...


Monday, January 17, 2011

Judge Ann Lokuta Loses

The state Supreme Court has affirmed former Luzerne County Judge Ann H. Lokuta’s removal from the bench, seemingly bringing to an end a protracted saga involving allegations of prejudice, selective prosecution and judicial conflicts of interest.

In a 35-page majority opinion, Justice J. Michael Eakin wrote for a 4-1 majority that Lokuta failed to develop several of her arguments, waived others and, overall, offered too many tenuous pieces of evidence in an attempt to show a conspiracy against her.

The judge was removed from the bench in December 2008, after she was found to have mistreated lawyers and court staff, disregarded her duties and failed to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Since then, she has argued that fellow former Luzerne County Judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. orchestrated a conspiracy to remove her from the bench.

Conahan and Ciavarella were charged by federal investigators with accepting more than $2.8 million from the builder and former co-owner of a private juvenile detention facility. Investigators have alleged they took the money in exchange for sending children there.

Full Article and Source:
Justices Uphold Lokuta's Removal From Judicial Post

Bailiff Charged With Drunken Driving, Gun OffensesW

Cuyahoga County Probate Court bailiff Marc Garofoli is charged with driving under the influence, carrying a concealed weapon and improperly handling a gun in a motor vehicle.

The case is being handled by a prosecutor from Summit County and was assigned to Common Pleas Judge Ronald Suster. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 18.

Garofoli, 37, of Moreland Hills, is free on a $5,000 bond and has occupational driving privileges. He works for the Probate Court's Presiding Judge Anthony Russo, the brother of former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Anthony Russo's Bailiff Charged with Drunken Driving, Gun Offences

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Judge Considering Guardian Appointment for Elderly Man

An Essex County judge has agreed to name an independent "guardian" to examine the validity of the documents presented by Vito Loiacono to support his acting on behalf of his grandfather, Joseph Judd — the 83-year-old Gloucester man whose family has raised a number of allegations about the handling of his case under SeniorCare, Inc.

The motion, heard in probate court, was brought by SeniorCare, the Gloucester-based nonprofit services provider for McPherson Park elderly housing on Prospect Street, where Judd lived for 31/2 years.

Attorney Larry Vern, of Boston's Sullivan & Worcester, said his client — SeniorCare — received in November "a letter that sort of looks like a power of attorney," through which Loiacono sought all of Judd's medical records.

That and a health proxy presented by Loiacono "looked like something from the 1700s," said Vern; SeniorCare has not released the records.

In Massachusetts, such documents do not need to be prepared by a lawyer. Loiacono's were prepared and notarized, as required, by Robert Burke, of Gloucester, a family friend who has a law degree but works as an architect. He said the papers were in order.

Loiacono, who has questioned the timing of SeniorCare's court action on the heels of his request for his grandfather's medical file, said: "I presented those documents to (SeniorCare executive) Scott Trenti in June, when I first talked to him. He expressed no problem with them then.

"I showed the same papers to the medical records department at Addison Gilbert, and they gave me my grandfather's records," Loiacono said. "Same with Seacoast."

Vern told the court SeniorCare also questioned whether Judd, 83, who is illiterate and has dementia, was "influenced" to sign the documents.

Under the motion, the court-appointed guardian ad litem will also consider whether Judd needs a permanent guardian.

Full Article and Source:
Judge Eyes Naming Guardian in SeniorCare Case

Man Accused of Stealing From Dying Grandfather

Stephanie Nichols knew something wasn't right. Her stepfather had died Feb. 17, but more than $10,000 worth of charges had been made on his debit card since then.

She went through the charges, and more than $100 spent on a tattoo from a local tattoo parlor jumped out at her -- not to mention the $1,439 paid for an AR-15 rifle from a Vancouver pawn shop.

Nichols alerted police. She also told officers that she suspected her stepfather's grandson, whom she had noticed was recently sporting a large U.S. Marine Corps Eagle globe and anchor tattoo on his shoulder.

"That's when she realized it was him," said Portland Detective Harry Trimpler, an elder abuse investigator in the bureau's Family Services Division.

The grandson, Bradley J. Brown, 23, was arrested this week and arraigned on 56 allegations, including first-degree aggravated theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and multiple counts of identity theft.

Investigators say Brown made up to 70 unauthorized charges totaling $10,374 on his grandfather's debit card, using his personal identification number, between Feb. 8 and March 1. Purchases were made on the debit card almost every day during that period, court records show.

Full Article and Source:
Portland Man Accused of Stealing More Than $10,000 From Dying Grandfather