When a loved one has reached the final days of their life, families often move them into a hospice care facility. These facilities provide palliative care to ease a person’s pain and make them as comfortable as possible when their condition – for example, cancer – has reached a stage where it can no longer be effectively treated or cured.
This palliative care may include strong pain medications, fluid drainage, massages and gentle physical therapy. Hospice care professionals also help people who can no longer do any sort of self-care.
If a loved one is injured, develops another medical condition or dies in hospice care, families often assume they have no recourse – even if they believe the staff bears responsibility. Since their loved one was terminal, they may believe that holding the facility legally responsible would be an exercise in futility.
However, that’s not necessarily the case. If the staff was negligent, abusive or failed to provide the services agreed to in their contract, it may be possible to bring a legal claim against the facility and/or individual staff.
What types of legal claims may apply?
There are a variety of claims you may be able to file, depending on the circumstances. These include:
- Malpractice: If the staff didn’t provide a reasonable standard of care, such as administering pain or other medications, that could be considered medical malpractice.
- Negligence: If a person was dropped by a staff member and suffered a broken bone or they weren’t fed or hydrated properly, that could be considered ordinary or even gross negligence.
- Elder abuse: Unfortunately, those in hospice care are easy targets for physical, financial and other abuse because they’re often not fully conscious or their cognitive functions are impaired.
- Wrongful death: It is possible to bring a successful wrongful death suit if someone died due to actions or negligence by staff. For example, if a person falls and suffers a fatal brain injury because their caregiver was negligent, that could be cause for a wrongful death claim.
If the poor care didn’t rise to one of the above standards, it may still be possible to hold the facility liable for breach of contract if they didn’t provide the services promised.
It’s impossible to know just how many cases of malpractice, negligence and other wrongdoing by hospice care providers are never reported. By holding them accountable, you can seek justice for your loved one.