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Nursing Home’s Improper Use of Antipsychotic Drugs Results in Class Action Lawsuit

Recently, the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) joined a class action lawsuit against a Ventura County nursing home for allegedly violating California's regulations on antipsychotic drug administration to nursing home patients. The lawsuit is bringing attention to the growing problem of the use of chemical restraints in nursing homes without consent, explains a California personal injury lawyer.


Chemical restraints are used to make patients easier to control by sedating or subduing them.  This is especially true in cases of patients suffering from dementia. According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, more than half of the residents in nursing homes are suffering from some type of dementia. Many of these patients experience behavioral and psychological symptoms associated with dementia referred to as BPSD.  While chemical restraints are often used to treat BPSD, there is no evidence that this is effective and the preferred approaches to treatment are generally non-pharmacological. 


Unfortunately, despite the known dangers of off-label uses of antipsychotics, chemical restraints are still frequently used both for patients suffering from dementia and for other "problem" patients in nursing homes. Chemical restraints may be used to limit or stop patient complaints, make patients more accepting of change, stop patients from engaging in abusive behavior toward others or towards the staff, make patients indifferent to abuse they are experiencing, calm patients that are upset or agitated, or provide a quick solution to mental health problems that would be better solved with attention or behavioral therapy. According to a recent blog in the New York Times a chemical restraint is often prescribed as a solution to a temporary problem such as nighttime agitation that the staff doesn't have time to properly deal with and then the patient is never taken off of the medication. 


The class action lawsuit will involve an estimated 80 to 100 plaintiffs and is described as the first of its kind in the state of California. The lawsuit is also making national attention because it is the first of its kind that the AARP has joined.  The lead plaintiff in the case, Kathi Levine, alleges that her mother was dosed with a variety of antipsychotic drugs during her three-week stay at Ventura Convalescent Hospital where she was undergoing rehabilitation. Levine indicates that she did not give consent for her mother, an Alzheimer's patient, to be prescribed any of these medications and alleges that their use hastened her mother's deterioration and played a role in her death. 


Lawyers for the plaintiff indicate that the prominent Ventura County doctor prescribing the antipsychotic medications had testified that he never obtained consent but instead relied on the nursing home to do so. They also allege that the nursing home and doctor created false records of informed consent. 


If the plaintiffs prevail in proving a lack of informed consent and/or improper use of medication, they could be entitled to significant civil damages. Plaintiffs' attorneys also suggest that the lawsuit could send an important message to California nursing homes and doctors that they have to comply with laws protecting patients' rights to be free from unauthorized chemical restraint. 


Additional information on this and similar subjects is available to the public free of charge through our office’s Preferred Friends and Clients Program.


If you would like to request one of these free resources, or to speak with a California personal injury lawyer, feel free to call 866-981-5596. 


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