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Is keeping a patient drugged a form of medical malpractice?

Recent advances in medical sciences mean that many of us will live longer lives than our predecessors. One of the unfortunate consequences of that enhanced longevity is that a significant portion of us will experience having our parents or other loved ones suffer from diseases associated with advanced age. Diseases that primarily affect a patient's cognitive abilities like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's can make it impossible for those victims to live without full-time supervision and care.

Many people are simply not capable of providing that level of care. Instead, many people rely on nursing homes and other long term care facilities to provide those services for their loved ones. Unfortunately, a handful of these facilities attempt to keep these patients drugged using antipsychotic medications in an effort to control them. Alzheimer's patients are particularly prone to episodic violent outbursts. Sometimes, medical care providers can abuse antipsychotic medications in an effort to limit such behavior.

It's also important to know that some facilities use these types of medications to control other types of non-aggressive behavior. A report issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that as many as 29.5 percent of patients evaluated for their survey had been prescribed antipsychotic medications for "off label" use. In other words, they did not present symptoms of aggressive behavior. In fact, the CMS survey found that many nursing home residents were being prescribed medications to prevent them from wandering, crying or even attempting to resist care.

There are several things you need to know if you are an Illinois resident with a loved one who may be receiving unnecessary medications. Medical negligence occurs when health care professionals fail to observe commonly accepted standards of care. An attorney experienced in medical malpractice law can help you determine whether the level of care your loved one is receiving conforms to generally accepted medical practices. Your attorney can also assist you in recovering compensation for any harm your loved one may have suffered as a result of that medical negligence. If successful, you may be able to ensure that your loved one gets the quality of care he or she deserves.

Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, "Interim report on the CMS National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes: Q4 2011 – Q1 2014," accessed June 30, 2015

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