Elder Abuse Leads to Jail for Nursing Director
California’s Attorney General announced that the former director of nursing at a hospital in the Kern Valley Healthcare District was sentenced to three years in state prison for the “convenience drugging” of elderly patients, including one who ended up dying.
Gwen D. Hughes, the former nursing director, was charged with the deaths of three patients in the original lawsuit. She pled no contest to a single felony count of elder abuse last October, with a special allegation that the abuse resulted in the death of a patient, according to a press release from the California Department of Justice.
The state’s Department of Justice alleges that Hughes ordered psychotropic medication -- without any therapeutic reasons -- for 23 elderly patients of the hospital’s skilled nursing facility. The drugs were given to keep quiet patients who were noisy, prone to wandering, or were argumentative.
The patients who were given the medication were mostly Alzheimer’s patients or suffering from dementia.
Hughes allegedly directed the hospital’s director of pharmacy to write doctor’s orders for the unnecessary psychotropic medications, according to the California Justice Department. The investigation by the state found that the drugs hastened the deaths of three patients and that all the patients who were inappropriately medicated suffered adverse physical reactions.
The Kern Valley case represents a rare instance in which a medical professional faced criminal charges and was sentenced under elder abuse laws for the illegal chemical restraint of patients.