(Reader discretion advised) A 30-year-old nurse has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, tampering and neglect of a care dependent person by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. The charges stem from the horrific death of an 84-year-old nursing home patient in Upper Roxborough, PA.
Authorities have charges nurse Christiann Gainey with the death of Herbert McMaster, a resident of the Cathedral Village senior living facility. Gainey was the nurse on duty at the time of Mr. McMaster’s death.
According to authorities, McMaster became a patient of the nursing facility on April 9th. He was admitted after suffering a stroke. His doctors hoped he could be rehabilitated and return home. Instead, just three days later he fell in his room at 11:30 pm.
Falls at nursing homes are common. Most are preventable. The circumstances of Mr. McMaster’s fall aren’t clear. After the fall, however, Mr. McMaster was placed in a wheelchair and brought into the lobby.
Every skilled nursing facility has a protocol for assessing patients and monitoring them after a fall. Crystal Village is no exception.
CNAs are not responsible for assessment and follow up monitoring of patients who suffered from a severe fall. That duty fell on Gainey’s shoulders. She was the nurse on duty that fateful night.
What should have happened was a comprehensive neurological assessment of Mr. McMaster. This includes checking vital signs, monitoring pupils to insure they react to light, speaking with the patient and making sure the patient’s motor skills have not been compromised. Under Crystal Village’s protocol, this monitoring should have been done hourly.
Instead, nothing was done.
Herbert McMaster was found dead in the lobby the next morning by staff.
According to nurse Gainey’s progress notes, she had checked him last at 7:20 am and he was fine. Staff, however, had found him dead at 7:00 am, 20 minutes earlier than the last log entry. An entry that said he was alive and well.
When confronted by the discrepancy, Gainey allegedly admitted to a supervisor that she had falsified Mr. McMaster’s chart records.
When police viewed video footage of the lobby, they found that nurse Gainey didn’t do a single assessment or hourly check. That is eight hourly checks that were never done. According to prosecutors, had an assessment been performed, Mr. McMaster might be alive today. The assessment could have indicated the severity of his injuries and steps could have been taken to get him to a hospital.
The Philadelphia Medical Examiner says the cause of death was blunt impact head trauma caused by the fall and a related untreated subdural hematoma (swelling) of the brain. Because Gainey never checked on her patient, she has been charged with manslaughter and criminal neglect.
Involuntary manslaughter and neglect of a care dependent person are normally serious misdemeanors each punishable by up to 5 years in prison. If jurors believe that Mr. McMaster died as the result of poor care, the sentence can be enhanced to a felony level. (We remind readers that a charge is merely an accusation. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty.)
In announcing the charges, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said,
“When a family selects a senior living facility, they do not expect their loved one to be found dead in the lobby of a place that was supposed to be caring for him. This nurse ignored her job responsibilities, falsified paperwork, lied to her supervisors and neglected Mr. McMaster, who died.
“She did not perform one – not one – neurological check on Mr. McMaster, and even lied on the paperwork that she did. The evidence shows that Gainey intentionally, knowingly and recklessly caused serious bodily injury to Mr. McMaster by failing to provide treatment or care. We will hold her – and anyone else who knowingly neglects a care-dependent person in Pennsylvania –accountable.”
A press release from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office says the family also made a statement, “The best way to honor his memory is for all of us to do all we can to prevent others from suffering at the hands of those who lack compassion and abandon even the most basic standards of human decency. Today’s charges are an important step forward in that connection.”
Herbert McMaster was a decorated veteran who retired from the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Pennsylvania Neglect of a Care Dependent Person
Pennsylvania is one of a growing number of states that have passed special laws to address nursing home abuse and neglect. The definition of “neglect” covers failing to provide adequate care and improper use of chemical and physical restraints. The full definition of the statute appears at the bottom of this post.
Passed in 1995, Pennsylvania was one of the early adopter states that included improper use of chemical and physical restraints in their definition of “neglect.” Unfortunately, many dementia care and nursing homes continue to overmedicate residents instead of spending quality time with them or providing proper care.
“What Can I Do if Someone I Love is Being Neglected in a Nursing Home?”
That is a question we hear often. There are differences between nursing home neglect and abuse. Unfortunately for the patient, the results are the same. Pain, fear, despair, often loneliness and sometimes death.
When a patient is physically abused – for example being punched or sexually assaulted – the police are quick to respond. Most nursing homes to their credit will also take swift action. Neglect, however, is harder to detect and measure. It is often measured by what you don’t see. For example, in the case against nurse Gainey it what the nurse didn’t do. No assessments and hourly checks.
Nursing home neglect and abuse is illegal in all fifty states. No patient should ever be abused or neglected. There is absolutely no excuses or justification for neglect.
We understand that many patients are afraid to report neglect. Sometimes it is because they don’t want to be a burden. Other times they are afraid of retaliation if they seek help. And in many times, they are so dependent on their caregivers that they fear further isolation if they rock the boat.
Our hardest job is getting folks to step forward. Once a victim or family member comes forward, there is much that we can do.
When we take a case, we do everything in our power to stop the abuse and secure compensation for victims and their families. The best way to stop abuse and neglect is to shine a light on it. To report it. To hold staff and the administration personally responsible and to cause financial pain to the the facilities that neglect their patients.
Our nationwide team and network of nursing home abuse lawyers can help anywhere in the United States.
Ready to learn more? Visit our nursing home neglect and abuse page. Hoping to learn about learn about chemical restraints? See the link above in the post.
Want to know if you have a case? Contact directly online or toll free at 833.201.1555. The call and consultation are always free and confidential. Don’t let a loved one suffer for another minute.
Are you a nurse or healthcare professional with knowledge of Medicare fraud or severe understaffing? We want to speak to you as well. By stepping forward you are protecting patients and may be eligible for a whistleblower award. All inquiries are always confidential.
Pennsylvania Title 18 §2713
Neglect of care-dependent person.
- Offense defined. --A caretaker is guilty of neglect of a care-dependent person if he:
- Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury or serious bodily injury by failing to provide treatment, care, goods or services necessary to preserve the health, safety or welfare of a care-dependent person for whom he is responsible to provide care.
- Intentionally or knowingly uses a physical restraint or chemical restraint or medication on a care-dependent person, or isolates a care-dependent person contrary to law or regulation, such that bodily injury or serious bodily injury results.
- Penalty. --
- A violation of subsection (a)(1) constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree if the victim suffers bodily injury.
- A violation of subsection (a)(1) constitutes a felony of the first degree if the victim suffers serious bodily injury.
- A violation of subsection (a)(2) constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree if the victim suffers bodily injury.
- A violation of subsection (a)(2) constitutes a felony of the first degree if the victim suffers serious bodily injury.
- Report during investigation. --When in the course of conducting any regulatory or investigative responsibility, the Department of Aging, the Department of Health or the Department of Public Welfare has a reasonable cause to believe that a care- dependent person or care-dependent persons residing in a facility have suffered bodily injury or been unlawfully restrained in violation of subsection (a)(1) or (2), a report shall be made immediately to the local law enforcement agency or to the Office of Attorney General.
- Enforcement. --
- The district attorneys of the several counties shall have authority to investigate and to institute criminal proceedings for any violations of this section.
- In addition to the authority conferred upon the Attorney General under the act of October 15, 1980 (P.L.950, No.164), known as the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, the Attorney General shall have the authority to investigate and institute criminal proceedings for any violation of this section. A person charged with a violation of this section by the Attorney General shall not have standing to challenge the authority of the Attorney General to investigate or prosecute the case, and, if any such challenge is made, the challenge shall be dismissed and no relief shall be available in the courts of this Commonwealth to the person making the challenge.
- Treatment in conformance with care-dependent person's right to accept or refuse services. --A caretaker or any other individual or facility may offer an affirmative defense to charges filed pursuant to this section if the caretaker, individual or facility can demonstrate through a preponderance of the evidence that the alleged violations result directly from:
- the caretaker's, individual's or facility's lawful compliance with a care-dependent person's living will as provided in 20 Pa.C.S. Ch. 54 (relating to health care);
- the caretaker's, individual's or facility's lawful compliance with the care-dependent person's written, signed and witnessed instructions, executed when the care-dependent person is competent as to the treatment he wishes to receive;
- the caretaker's, individual's or facility's lawful compliance with the direction of the care-dependent person's:
- agent acting pursuant to a lawful durable power of attorney under 20 Pa.C.S. Ch. 56 (relating to powers of attorney), within the scope of that power; or
- health care agent acting pursuant to a health care power of attorney under 20 Pa.C.S. Ch. 54 Subch. C (relating to health care agents and representatives), within the scope of that power;
- the caretaker's, individual's or facility's lawful compliance with a "Do Not Resuscitate" order written and signed by the care-dependent person's attending physician; or (5) the caretaker's, individual's or facility's lawful compliance with the direction of the care-dependent person's health care representative under 20 Pa.C.S. § 5461 (relating to decisions by health care representative), provided the care-dependent person has an end-stage medical condition or is permanently unconscious as these terms are defined in 20 Pa.C.S. § 5422 (relating to definitions) as determined and documented in the person's medical record by the person's attending physician.
- Definitions.--As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection: "Care-dependent person." Any adult who, due to physical or cognitive disability or impairment, requires assistance to meet his needs for food, shelter, clothing, personal care or health care. "Caretaker." Any person who:
- is an owner, operator, manager or employee of a nursing home, personal care home, domiciliary care home, community residential facility, intermediate care facility for the mentally retarded, adult daily living center, home health agency or home health service provider whether licensed or unlicensed;
- provides care to a care-dependent person in the setting described in paragraph (1); or (3) has an obligation to care for a care-dependent person for monetary consideration in the settings described in paragraph (1) or in the care-dependent person's home. "Person." A natural person, corporation, partnership, unincorporated association or other business entity.
Ready to find out if you have a case? Contact directly online or toll free at 833.201.1555.