Hospice brings to mind a gentle, end-of-life transition into whatever realm lies ahead, according to the tenets of your belief system (or not).
But two recent reports on hospice care in the United States have revealed that some patients had nothing but a nightmare experience during their final illnesses while in hospice care.
Both the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that over 80% of hospices had a deficiency. Approximately 18%, or over 300 facilities, were found to have serious deficiencies that put the hospice patients’ safety and health at risk. They included:
- Amputation of an Alzheimer’s patient’s leg due to staff neglecting the wounds.
- Maggots squirming on a terminally ill patient’s feeding tube.
- Caregivers ignoring indications of sexual assault on a female patient and instead attempting to catheterize her.
According to the Inspector General (IG), “these hospices did not face serious consequences for the harm described in this report.” The IG also stated that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should be granted the legal authority to issue penalties to those facilities having life-threatening violations.
Under current laws, “CMS cannot impose penalties, other than termination, to hold hospices accountable for harming beneficiaries.” Congress has the authority to charge the agency with the power to fine deficient hospices.
Medicare funds were sometimes used to fund care for hospice patients that endangered them, as in the case of familial caregivers who abuse those they are paid to assist.
In some cases, social workers assigned to the patients ignored signs of abuse or failed do properly and timely assess the risks to the terminally ill hospice patients.
If you suspect that a loved one in hospice care is being neglected or abused, you can advocate for them to be treated with dignity and respect. A Boston personal injury and medical malpractice attorney can evaluate the case and suggest how you can proceed.