Nursing Home Receives Stiff Fine After Man's Bowel Ruptures and He Dies of Sepsis (Infection)

A nursing home faces the most severe citation and fine possible from the state after one of its patients died of infection caused by a perforated bowel.  The Springs at the Carlotta, a 59-bed facility, received the citation for failing to identify and monitor the medical needs of its 87-year-old woman, who suffered from constipation for 24 days and died of acute peritonitis, a perforated colon, and severe constipation.

The woman was admitted to the nursing home to recover from a broken pelvis following a fall.  The nursing home knew the woman was constipated when she was admitted to the nursing home, but its staff failed to document proper treatment for the woman's constipation.  The woman became so ill that she began vomiting and died seven days later at the hospital after being sent there for testing.  Read more about the state's investigation of the facility's care.

This article was of interest to me because I just settled on very favorable terms a case with very similar facts against a national nursing home chain.  In the case I handled, a 75-year-old nursing home patient was hospitalized after staff at the nursing home observed he had diminished bowel sounds, a swollen abdomen, and abdominal discomfort.  Once at the hospital, he was diagnosed with a ruptured bowel, peritonitis (infection of the lining of the stomach), and sepsis (systemic bacterial infection).  The patient died within 24 hours of the time he was hospitalized. 

The patient's family, which consisted of his sister and brother, claimed the nursing home's staff failed for over one week to observe or obtain medical attention for their brother's declining condition, which the family's experts contended should have included increasing abdominal distention (swelling), decreasing bowel sounds, increasing abdominal discomfort, and less frequent bowel movements.  The nursing home claimed the patient's bowel rupture was an acute, spontaneous event that could not have been predicted, prevented, or treated by the nursing home or other health care providers.  Even though the nursing home claimed it did nothing wrong and was not negligent, they still paid mid six figures to settle the case.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.