Nursing Home Deaths Caused by Deliberate Overdosing

Elder abuse or neglect in the nursing home is a fear many elderly Americans face. A case unfolding in Illinois is about as bad as it gets.

According to a report from the states Department of Public Health, several suspicious deaths at the Lake of the Hills nursing home may have been the result of a nurse deliberately overdosing troublesome patients. A year-long investigation into the deaths revealed that nurse Marty Himebaugh boasted to coworkers that she gave patients she felt were difficult or had “lived long enough” a drug cocktail that contained morphine sulfate, now suspected as the cause of several deaths.

I one particularly horrible finding, the nurse was reported as telling a coworker that, “those people aren’t meant to live that long,” referring to an adult resident who suffered from Downs syndrome, “they are meant to die in their teens and I’m going to help him along.”

Himebaugh has been charged with criminal neglect, alleging that she gave four residents unsafe levels of drugs, causing all four to die. More on this story can be found here.

This story makes one wonder about the overmedication cases we see. It is not uncommon for a family to tell us that mom or dad was alert and oriented upon admission to a facility, and then in a matter of days or weeks was “sleeping all of the time” or “acting strangely,” usually ending with some injury-causing event. Typically, we approach those cases as accidental overmedication, the result of poor staffing or poor training. But this case will prompt us to look at other, intentional causes.