Injured People

Families of drugged elderly could be entitled to compensation

According to a report, up to six thousand elderly dementia patients in nursing homes could be dying prematurely each year due to the over prescribing of the tranquilliser Haloperidol (Serenace), writes Adelaide injury lawyer Mal Byrne.

The reason is that doctors and nursing homes are using tranquillisers to deal with behavioral issues of these patients rather than treatment; in effect, to keep them quiet so they don’t have to deal with behavioural problems. Patients who can walk and talk become bedridden and their physical health deteriorates due to factors such as poor eating, and their death is accelerated as a result.  

There was an example reported of a 63 year old Adelaide man who was fit and alert, but prone to inappropriate sexual conduct due to his dementia. After being admitted to the home, he was bedridden within days after being given a high dose of Haloperidol and died 12 days after being admitted.

Legally, it would a breach of the nursing home’s duty of care to the patient to treat them this way, and the home could face potential civil action from the family for nervous shock associated with the early death of the loved one, funeral costs and medical costs.

Socially, it is also evidence of the need for the further protection of the rights of elderly people in and out of nursing homes and for doctors to be better educated regarding their prescribing habits.

Watch or read the Lateline report here

Author: Mal Byrne

For legal advice about this issue, contact Mal on (08) 8250 6668.