To the editor:
The nursing home industry is once again pushing legislation to fix a "pet peeve" while ignoring its duty to promote safe practice. Nursing homes complain they wait too long to get a call back from the doctor to pronounce death. On Thursday, the House Health Committee heard testimony on HB 2342, which in part, permits registered nurses in nursing homes to pronounce death in most cases. This is basically what happens now, except that the nurse calls the doctor, reports the absent vitals, and obtains a medical "diagnosis" of death.
Far too many people die in nursing homes for the wrong reasons. Examples include: head injuries, physical abuse, neglect, massive bed sores or rib or other high-risk fractures. Oddly enough, the mortician is often the only outside professional to see the body. While many states are following the example of Arkansas and considering strengthening coroner oversight of nursing home deaths, HB 2342 takes the easier path.
Jo Scott, of Johnson County, presented written testimony about her mother's violent death which she first learned about when the mortician remarked about how well the bruises on her mother's neck had been concealed. Later she learned the nursing home staff conspired to cover up her mother's death from apparent strangulation.
The question, of course, is not whether a person has died, but rather, how and why. With HB 2342, nursing home operators are advancing the wrong agenda: What this state really needs is a better system for reviewing nursing home deaths.