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Levine v. Ventura Convalescent Hospital

AARP Represents Nursing Home Residents Alleging Overmedication

    

AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys are co-counsel in a case in California that alleges that a nursing facility mis- and over-administered dangerous psychotherapeutic drugs, harming the health of residents, and administered them without the residents’ informed consent, as required under California law.

Background

Kathi Levine’s mother was admitted to a nursing facility after suffering a hip fracture and was allegedly prescribed a variety of unnecessary medications administered without the consent required by law. In a recently filed class action, Levine v. Ventura Convalescent Hospital, Levine is the lead plaintiff as representative of her mother’s estate.

Levine alleges that even though she held the medical power of attorney for her mother, she was never consulted about the administration of medications and her consent was never obtained. She alleges that she did not even know about the prescription of these drugs until her mother was being discharged from the facility, at which point a nurse told her about the powerful sedatives, anxiety drugs, antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs that were being administered to her mother.

Levine alleges that what the drugs did to her mother was turn her into a person with little cognitive function who would babble nonsense at all hours of the night, too confused and sleepy to participate even in the physical therapy that had been the purpose of her admission to the facility. Once her mother was discharged, her doctor tried in vain to wean her off the medications. Within a few weeks, her mother died.

Levine reported the facility to the state Department of Public Health. The agency ruled that the facility had failed to ensure that Levine’s mother was free from unnecessary drugs that had put Levine’s mother in direct and immediate danger. However, because her mother had already died, the agency took no further action to address the systemic issues at the facility.

Levine sued the nursing facility, and AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys have joined with attorneys in the law offices of Gregory Johnson and Jody Moore to represent her and others similarly treated. The lawsuit alleges that while these drugs may make residents easier to handle, by needlessly medicating residents and by failing to obtain their consent, the nursing home violated federal and state laws particularly designed to protect residents of nursing homes.

What’s at Stake

In March 2012, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a national initiative to reduce the use of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes and the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued strong warnings after finding evidence that antipsychotic drugs are increasing death rates in older patients with dementia.

In California alone, almost 60 percent of nursing home residents are given psychoactive drugs, a 30 percent rise since 2000. The effects of these drugs are devastating, threatening health and often turning residents into people their own families cannot recognize.

Case Status

Levine v. Ventura Convalescent Hospital is pending before the Superior Court of California, Ventura County.

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Our legal advocacy initiatives  - conducted by AARP Foundation Litigation (AFL) - reflect more than 15 years of work in federal and state courts across the country. Through our efforts, we support the Foundation’s four priority areas: Hunger, Income, Housing and Isolation, and ensure that those 50 and older have a voice in the laws and policies that affect their daily lives.