A profoundly disabled 14-year-old girl who suffered from cerebral palsy, seizures, and other ailments, was well-cared for at home, according to her mother. Her mother diligently pureed her foods, took care of her hygiene, and provided her daughter with love, attention, and compassion. That all changed when social workers for the State of Florida decided that her daughter would be better off in a Florida nursing home, despite her mother’s wishes that her daughter remain at home. Within twelve hours of the daughter’s arrival at a Florida nursing home in April, 2011, she was dead of a heart attack – the victim of a lack of care including not being given her life-supporting medications that she needed to breathe.
The efforts of Florida officials to remove the child from her home began when the mother brought her to a local hospital for medical care. A local judge was asked to determine who should have custody of the child, which resulted in custody being granted to the mother. Nonetheless, and in violation of the judge’s custody order, about one month later a private foster care agency under contract with Florida directed the hospital to transport the child by ambulance to the only nursing home that would accept her, which was a five-hour drive away. Upon arrival at the nursing home, she was screaming, which continued until shortly before her death. During the twelve hours she was in the nursing home, the only food that she was provided was some applesauce.
A regulatory investigation into the girl’s care and death resulted in the imposition of federal fines in the amount of $300,000 and state fines in the amount of $7,500 against the nursing home that currently cares for 37 children. The regulators faulted the nursing home’s care of the 14-year-old girl in the following respect: the nursing home’s nurses failed to assess the girl’s condition until three hours after she arrived at the nursing home; the nursing home records failed to document any effort to advise a doctor that the girl was having severe breathing problems; the nursing home records reflect that the girl did not receive her necessary anti-seizure medications that were required to be administered three times per day, at any time after 10:00 a.m. on the day before she died; the nursing home did not have any policies in place to treat children any differently than adult nursing home residents even though it received funding for treating children; and, the nursing home failed to advise state authorities about the girl’s death, in violation of Florida law.
The unnecessary and untimely death of any nursing home resident is troubling but the death of a 14-year-old ripped from her mother’s arms who was providing her daughter with the essentials that were necessary and desirable to live, including love and human compassion, is particularly tragic and heartrending. What right does a state have to interfere with the bond between a parent and a child if the child is not at risk based on that relationship? Why did the State of Florida believe that it knew best when it came to what the girl needed to sustain her life, in violation of a custody order?
If you are involved in a disturbing nursing home matter involving children, you should promptly seek the advice of a local nursing home claim attorney (medical malpractice attorney) who may be willing to investigate the possibility of bringing a claim against the nursing home.
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