North Carolina (NC) state law enforcement officials on August 9, 2010, handed down nearly three dozen indictments against a former nursing home nurse for charges ranging from patient abuse to second-degree murder. The currently jailed nurse is accused of administering overdoses of morphine and other painkilling opiates to patients at Brithaven of Chapel Hill in Orange County, just northeast of the city.
According to WRAL-TV, investigators spent months looking into suspicious medication side effects among patients and the death of one 84-year-old woman. Detectives and medical examiners determined that registered nurse Angela Almore may have intentionally administered opiates to patients who should not have received those drugs and gave other patients doses that were too high. About a third of the overmedicated patients, including the woman who lost her life, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Brithaven may face fines for failing to protect patients and properly oversee the actions of a nurse it employed. Such fines would be appropriate if Almore is convicted of any instance of abusing patients or giving overdoses to people in her care. Hospital administrators and senior staff such as nurse managers and doctors have an undeniable duty to ensure that those working under them do nothing to harm patients or put patients at risk.
The case being made against Almore is shocking. Many nursing home patients are completely dependent on the care they receive from nurses, doctors, physical therapists and other hospital personnel. Those patients — and their families — need to trust that the health care providers will act in ways that keep patients as comfortable and as healthy as possible.