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Wrongful death of the elderly an increasing problem

An increasingly common problem is the failure of hospitals to put a stop to mistreatment of elderly patients. This mistreatment can lead to the wrongful death of the elderly patient. Recently, a New Jersey woman discovered that her 93-year-old mother, a nursing home patient with Alzheimer's disease, had sustained injuries across her body. The woman's mother had broken her eye socket, cheekbone, wrist and jaw, and also had welts on her back and gashes on her left shin. The mother eventually died from her injuries. The hospital said that the mother slipped on powder in her bathroom and injured herself in a fall, but this was a claim that the daughter refused to accept. The daughter suspected abuse by the hospital's staff, but an investigation did not turn up any evidence.

The woman's experience inspired her to lead a campaign to make New Jersey's laws against abuse of the elderly more powerful. Current laws require a confirmation that a crime has been committed before law enforcement is notified of any potential elder abuse, which means that the facility where the abuse has occurred may make the determination. The law currently being advanced by the woman who lost her mother requires that any employee of a health care facility notify law enforcement if they reasonably believe that elder abuse has occurred.

While many believe that this law is a positive development to help combat elder abuse, others have shared concerns that this law goes too far. Specifically, there are concerns that this law would encourage frivolous calls to law enforcement over issues that are not crimes. Critics also contend that current laws are sufficient to stop abuse of the elderly, and that this law would tie up law enforcement officials with incoming complaints.

While the law continues to develop, there are legal remedies and options available for those who have lost a loved one in a case of wrongful death. Specifically, families can bring a civil lawsuit against those responsible, which allows for the family members to seek compensation in the form of damages for emotional pain and suffering. New Jersey residents should know that legal remedies are available to those who have lost a loved one due to negligence.

Source: Brick.Patch.com, "Brick Case Inspires Bill to Protect Elderly Patients," Daniel Nee, July 23, 2012.

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