In two prior cases involving the wrongful death of disabled patients living in residential homes where care was paid for by the state of Tennessee, as well as a third similar death, negligence has now been ruled as primary cause—despite the initial reverse conclusion of a government official who improperly intervened in all three cases.
According to records obtained by The Tennessean, there have been 63 unanticipated deaths at privately-run group homes and residences statewide in the past three years. However, the three deaths in question were the only cases where the results from the internal investigative committee were overturned by an agency administrator—former DIDD (Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) Deputy Commissioner Scott Modell.
The three deaths occurred over a time span of a year and a half in residences operated by Cordova-based provider, Behavioral Sciences of Tennessee—one of the dozens of private agencies who contract with the state to provide 24/7 care and services for people with intellectual disabilities.
The three deaths under review are:
- A woman who choked on a burrito in 2012. The investigator cited an aide who prepared her food and a supervisor for not intervening. Because the woman had difficulty swallowing, her food was supposed to be puréed or cut into small pieces.
- A man who died of a drug overdose in 2011. The original investigation determined that three staff members and the agency as a whole acted negligently, noting that the staffers failed to act despite the patient’s obvious worsening condition.
- A man who died after a violent struggle with a staff member in 2010. It was initially determined that there was evidence of physical abuse and neglect, as well as emotional abuse on the part of the caregiver who pinned the patient on the floor after the resident struck him and refused to get off even after the man was subdued.
However, all of these initial case findings were reversed by Modell shortly after the investigations were concluded. Modell claimed that while the actions of the staff and agency may not have been “the most appropriate … they did not rise to the level of neglect.”
Modell’s previous rulings have now effectively been overturned by state officials, who are saying that neglect did, in fact, play a role in these deaths, as originally determined.
In response, a DIDD spokesperson told Tennessee Watchdog: “Where we do agree with the auditors’ report, we’ve taken actions to make sure measures are in place to protect the people that we serve.”
The DIDD was serving 8,096 individuals as of last May.
Cases like these involving medical mistakes and neglect are often difficult and drawn out, especially in the event of wrongful death. Victims of a doctor’s or caregiver’s negligence must seek the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney (sidgilreath.com/tennessee-medical-malpractice/) if they want to stand a chance against the deep pockets of private healthcare corporations and hospitals.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of medical error or neglect, schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney at Gilreath & Associates to discuss your case today.