According to new information released by the state of Missouri, the coronavirus has infected residents in nearly 80 nursing homes and assisted care facilities, while the total death toll for the state as of May 10th was 482 individuals out of 9,844 known cases. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services listed information on the number of facilities in counties with outbreaks and local health officials have confirmed that more than three dozen nursing home residents have died of COVID-19.

Legal issues.

Nursing home administrators are concerned about legal issues surrounding COVID-19 deaths amidst outcries of family members who have been losing their loved ones in nursing homes.  The lack of transparency left families in the dark regarding the severity of their loved one’s condition before it was too late to move them in some cases.  Under normal conditions, residential rights of individuals living in long term facilities are protected by federal and state laws to ensure they are not neglected or abused in their living situation.  COVID-19 has caused residents to be isolated from their families and other residents in their communities, which is normally considered a form of abuse.  The weight of the illness against that of the social ramifications on an elder’s health has been taken into consideration.  Limiting visitors was the first push against increased transmission from outside sources to a long term community.

Standard of care.

Standards of care for treatment of COVID-19 have been evolving and best practices are those that intend to restore health to residents when possible. Negligence has a component of “foreseeable harm” and it will be interesting to see how any legal action will be handled, as many caregivers did not realize that fatal outcomes would result from this sickness that presented like a flu. Claims of abuse that can be reported include acts of negligence that cause, or exacerbate existing health conditions or place residents in danger. Each case will have to be individually reviewed to establish if COVID-19 treatment caused death or exacerbated illness in residents.  Nursing homes must follow Federal Regulation 42 CFR sec. 483.25 (h) and provide for an environment remaining as free of hazards as possible with ample supervision, along with adequate medical treatment upholding the current medical standards of care.

Compensation.

If unintentional neglect due to treatment, lack of treatment, or isolation during COVID-19 direclty resulted in the death of a loved one, a family may be compensated, if they can prove that negligence was involved.

Wrongful death. 

An experienced attorney can navigate the way the laws are interpreted for COVID-19 negative outcomes with possible compensation to Missouri families. Wrongful death legal actions arise out of grave injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another.

Sources.

https://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/novel-coronavirus/pdf/gov-dashboard.pdf

Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) of 1987

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