Neglect at Oklahoma Veterans Center Brings Murder Indictment

[caption id="attachment_2108" align="alignleft" width="300"]oklahoma nursing home abuse lawyer Image Credit: Public Domain[/caption] Nursing home abuse and neglect are among the most horrific forms of professional negligence. When a person becomes a resident or patient at a skilled nursing facility, it is because he or she is no longer fully able to care for himself or herself. When those whose duty it is to protect and care for those patients fail to do so and cause harm to those entrusted to their care, it is truly a travesty. When those who suffer injury or inadequate care are veterans of the United States armed forces and residents of facilities of the Department of Veterans Affair, it is a grave injustice indeed. Yesterday, a multi-county grand jury indictment was unsealed in Rogers County District Court in the case of Kenneth A. Adams, a former physician's assistant with the Claremore Veterans Center in northeast Oklahoma. Adams is charged with two counts of second degree murder and caretaker neglect after two elderly residents died of neglect-related causes last year. Adams is accused of neglect in the cases of 86-year-old Louis Arterberry and 85-year-old Jay Minter. Louis Arterberry died in March 2012 after suffering a stroke. Adams was called when Arterberry began exhibiting signs of stroke. However, according to court documents he is accused of ignoring his patient while he attempted to "arrange a sexual liaison" with someone else. Despite Arterberry's failing vitals, he was not admitted to the hospital until 10 hours after his first signs of stroke. He died a week later. Jay Minter died about a month later, in early May 2012, after suffering burns to nearly half of his body in a whirlpool bath that was not equipped with working temperature valves. A nurse tested the water with her hand and said that it didn't feel too hot, but when Minter was removed from the bath, nurses noticed skin peeling on his hands and said his skin stayed red for an unusually long period of time. They notified Adams. He and the nurses cut off Minter's pants and saw first and second degree burns to his arms and lower body. They did not transport him to the hospital and said he did not appear to be in pain. His family, however, says that Minter was crying out and was in tremendous pain. When he died, without medical treatment for his burns, ten hours after being submerged in the scalding water, Adams listed his cause of death as arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease with a contributing factor of thermal burns. However, a medical examiner listed the cause of death as complications from thermal injuries. Federal law regulates that the temperature in VA whirlpool baths to be a maximum of 115 degrees. An investigator tested the water at 127 degrees, and one expert testified that it could have been as high as 144 degrees. The widow for both Arterberry and Minter filed tort claims against the facility, and each was awarded the maximum allowable compensation of $175,000. Frances Minter, widow of Jay Minter, told reporters, "My attorney said to me, he said 'You can't help your husband, he's gone. But maybe you can help other veterans so this doesn't happen again.'" Often, nursing home abuse litigation is not only about protecting our own loved ones and finding compensation for any harm done to them, but also about precipitating reform that protects others from similar neglect.