Allan J Gold

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Health-care Killers – Part #1

Vol. 11, #13.4 – January 30th, 2019  –  ALLAN GOLD’S BLOG

Elder abuse people
Elder Abuse in Canada

Tenth (extra) blog post of series on Elder Law for seniors and their families, particularly spouses, adult children, caregivers, etc.


Today’s Topic: Health-care Killers – Part #1

A. OPENING

Now, let’s consider the specter of someone who kills an elderly person in a hospital (chronic care facility) or a seniors’ residence. No, I’m not referring to a contract killer liquidating a gangster’s competitor or enemy who happens to be in a medical institution. Instead, I’m speaking about someone from the health care team who is a murderer.

Incredulous? Sorry Virginia, but I have to tell you that there are such people. Sadly, this is when and where someone takes elder abuse to the absolute worst level, and you end up with a health-care killing. Indeed, this is when a health worker makes matters even worse, and this, to the optimum degree. If you’re one of the faint-hearted, embracing the proverbial principle “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, I suggest that you stop here. But if not, and you want to know more about the world, even the underbelly of the “so-called “naked city”, please continue reading.

B. HORRIFIC REAL- LIFE EXAMPLES:

I will hereafter cite a few cases, providing some biographical-case notes, issues & lessons to be gleaned, etc. therefrom. I grade them  or  or  or  . Of course, I’m interested in knowing if you agree with this ranking.

Dorothea Nancy Waddingham  (1899 – 16 April 1936). This English nursing home matron is my nomination for one of the worst caregivers, who ever lived. In her care, were Louisa Baguley, aged 89, and her crippled daughter, Ada Baguley, aged 50. In the facts, Ada Baguley had made a will leaving her estate of £1,600 in trust for her mother and after her death, the rest was to be divided between two cousins. But these two nursing home patients were murdered by Waddingham. The purported motive was to grab the Baguleys’ estate. She did the dirty deed with morphine. And found guilty of murder, she was sentenced to death and hanged at HMP Birmingham.

Biographical-Case Notes: Waddingham was born on a farm at Hucknall near Nottingham in 1900. After leaving school, she worked in a factory for a while before taking up a post at the Burton on Trent Workhouse infirmary in Staffordshire. The only ‘medical’ training that she received was as a ward-maid at this infirmary. Nevertheless, she later ran an unlicensed nursing home, which she had converted from her house. And this was the place where the Baguleys had resided and were killed!

Questions at Issue & Lessons to be gleaned: In this case, beyond the facts, culpability and sentence, I raise three questions at issue, such with three respective lessons to be gleaned therefrom.

  1. The first question at issue is whether or not, Waddingham, was (or should have been) eligible to operate a nursing home. My answer is: “No”. I surmise that she was not screened for this role and even if she was, she shouldn’t have been granted a permit since she wouldn’t have met any minimum qualifying criteria theretofore. I came to this conclusion after learning that Waddingham had a long criminal record with several convictions for fraud and petty theft. This red flag should have barred her from having the responsibility for vulnerable and/or elderly people. Of course, a law breaker, indeed a criminal, isn’t fit to run a home for seniors or even be a caregiver. Indeed, she was one of those people who would do anything for money. Accordingly, the lesson is that prior to issuing a permit, the licensing body should: (a) SET stringent pre-requisites; (b) VET (thoroughly) anyone wanting to open a seniors’ residence and/or to work therein, this by securing a modern- day application form, duly signed by the applicant and thence verifying the past history and records, etc. thereof; (c) REJECT any candidate who does not meet the pre-set criteria.
  2. The second question at issue is a matter of education, credentials and training and whether Waddingham was eligible to operate a care home, having satisfied the relevant conditions in this regard. My answer is: “No”. Simply put, Waddingham was not a registered nurse in any shape or form, nor qualified, training wise, in any way whatsoever. Nevertheless she became a nursing home matron. Typically, in today’s day and age, this would not have happened. And whilst there are now requirements relative to education and training, the lesson is that we can always increase the standards, this with a view to improving the care.
  3. The third question at issue is whether there was governmental licensing for this care home. My answer is: “No”. In the facts, the home was stated as being unlicensed. At this time in history, when it comes to regulatory control over this activity, it’s likely that there was little or nothing. And it’s probable that such laxness created the environment conducive to the happening of this tragedy. But times have changed. In the present day and age, a permit is generally needed to open and operate a care home for the elderly and there are operational standards which must be satisfied year-to-year. But the lesson is that when it comes to residences-facilities for seniors, oversight-inspection can and should be heightened, this by having an even greater reach and enforcement being even more robust.

Final Word: In the deaths of the Baguleys, it’s self evident that greed was the driver and the inheritance was the wanted payoff. Regardless that this homicide occurred more than a half century ago, and while the times have changed, the risk remains as greed is just as powerful today and there are still people lusting for the money in an estate. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothea_Waddingham )    

Daniela Poggiali.    The case of this Italian nurse is very troubling, leaving me questioning whether law enforcement discovered the entire facts and if the truth was revealed and justice was done. Italian Police believed that she could have been responsible for the deaths of as many as 96 patients. It was noteworthy that after allegedly poisoning her patients, she took “selfies” of herself smiling next to recently deceased victims. While this caused an uproar, she still received fan mail! Of course, this is such a despicable way for someone to earn his/her 15 minutes of fame. Indeed, it’s a depraved claim to fame!

Biographical-Case Notes: Daniela Poggiali, 45, was a nurse in Italy, who had worked in a hospital emergency room. Apparently, on one hand, she was engaging and tireless with patients’ families, but on the other, seemingly cold and unpleasant with colleagues.

At the start of April 2014, it was determined that in the first three months of 2014, 38 of the 83 deaths registered in her department occurred when Poggiali was on duty, against an average of no more than 10 for her fellow nurses. An investigation was launched once a 78-year-old woman died shortly after Poggiali was involved in her care. The autopsy showed that this patient had been given a massive dose of potassium chloride. (N.B. Potassium chloride is detectable in the body only for a few days after death. As a result, the other 10 +- suspicious cases over a period of a few months — could not be added to the official file.) Poggiali was charged in this death and was arrested in October 2014 in Lugo, Italy. The authorities didn’t think that this was just a series of troubling coincidences. Instead, prosecutors determined that Poggiali was the only person who could have given the injection; and relative to the injection, they rejected any notion of a mistake having been made. It is noteworthy that at trial, an expert called by Poggiali’s lawyers, stated that, if the injection had occurred as claimed, the patient would have died in a matter of minutes, and not over an hour as was the case. In March 2016, she was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for life. She was jailed, but in July 2017, she was acquitted on appeal. Indeed, the Bologne appeal court ruled: “The facts do not stand up….” She was then released after spending nearly three years behind bars.

Questions at Issue & Lessons to be gleaned: In this case, beyond the facts, culpability and sentence, I raise two questions at issue, such with two respective lessons to be gleaned therefrom.

  1. The first question at issue is whether or not, Poggiali was fit and able to be licensed as a nurse and/or to continue to be licensed to practice. My answer is: “Probably not”. I start by saying that a licensor should consider a candidate’s mental health, if and when he/she is living with mental health disabilities, encompassing such conditions as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, etc. And for me, it’s also necessary for the licensor to: (a) Consider whether an applicant has the right temperament capable of showing empathy; (b) Interview the prospect, inquiring into whether he/she has a moral compass knowing the difference between right and wrong, showing correct values, good taste, proper respect for the living and the dead, etc. This said, I urge that there were several clues of Poggiali’s disqualification. One was how she interacted with hospital staff. Another was her desire for photographs, which were ill-gotten on one hand and abnormal, at odds with usual decorum, unbefitting, etc on the other. Of course, it later became crystal clear when it was reported that she had apparently given huge doses of drugs to sick patients, whom she found “annoying”.
  2. The second question at issue is whether the hospital -residence engaging nurse Poggiali, fulfilled its obligations owed to patients-residents. My answer is: “Probably not”. Given the foregoing answer to the 1st issue, it’s obvious that the institution was asleep at the switch, when it hired Poggialia and continued to have her walk the corridors and enter patient rooms and render care. In effect, it allowed her the opportunity to cause mayhem and create victims. This said, the lesson is that a chronic care facility and/or senior residence must engage employees who will do the job and not harm those under their care. To this end, .it can always increase its standards for patient care personnel and heighten staff supervision and in- house investigation, this with a view to protecting patients-residents.

Final Word: On noting that Poggiali was found guilty at trial (but later acquitted) for murdering one patient and widely suspected over the deaths of many others at the time, I am haunted by the thought that she got away with murder. On release, she was quoted as saying: “They described me as someone who I am not, and now I am going to be able to get my life back again.” And to her I must ask: “Can the victims get their lives back?” (Source: https://www.thelocal.it/20170708/italian-nurse-suspected-over-patient-deaths-acquitted-on-appeal)   

C. CLOSING

Today, I introduced the topic of killers in a hospital (chronic care facility) or a seniors’ residence; and this probably raised your angst level. If an elderly, a health-care killing would likely be your worst nightmare, scaring the living daylights out of you. And if a relative, it would be down right terrifying.

But this fear is a good thing as it will stop everyone from taking good care for granted, thinking all care givers are good; and it will cause one to pay close attention, looking at what’s going on, listening to everything being said, and speaking up wherever warranted.

Last, I submit that the more one knows, the more one comprehends. And even on this topic, knowledge is power!   

D. PREVIEW OF NEXT IN THE BLOG SERIES: Health-care Killers- Part #2

I believe that with this blog series on elder abuse, I may have got you thinking about the safety and security of the aged. Today, I introduced the topic of killers in a hospital (chronic care facility) or a seniors’ residence; and I also cited a few cases, which perhaps raised your angst level. Please stay tuned-there’s even more frightful stories to come. In the second part, I will continue on giving you even more horrific real- life examples. Interested? Want to be frightened out of your wits? See you next time.*   

E. NOTICE – CAUTION –DISCLAIMER

The material provided herein is of a general nature, strictly for informational purposes. The interpretation and analysis is not to be misapplied to a personal situation with a particular set of facts. Under no circumstances, are the herein suggestions and tips, intended to bring a reader to the point of acting or not acting, but instead, the hope is that they are to be a cause for pause and reflection. It is specifically declared that this content is not to be a replacement of or substitution for legal or any other appropriate advice. To the contrary, for more information on these presents, related subjects or any other questions, it is the express recommendation of the author that everyone seek out and consult a qualified professional or competent adviser.   

*©/TM 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED