Litigation the only way

Health professionals who overprescribe antipsychotics to older people with dementia should be sued, an elder law expert has told ABC’s ‘Lateline’.

By Yasmin Noone

The only thing that might stop some health professionals from continuing to overprescribe antipsychotic medication to older people with dementia is legal action, an elder law expert told the ABC show, Lateline, on Wednesday evening this week.

The Sydney-based aged care lawyer and author of the book Elder Law in Australia, Rodney Lewis, appeared in the ABC program’s report saying he believes health professionals should be sued if an older person with dementia dies prematurely because they have been overprescribed antipsychotics.

The Wednesday night Lateline report follows on an earlier investigation into antipsychotic prescriptions, aired by the show two weeks earlier, which revealed that thousands of people may be dying prematurely each year from the misuse of some dementia drugs.

“…Those anti-psychotics are behaviour altering, they involve chemical restraint in one form or another,” Mr Lewis said this week on Lateline.

“So, there is no question that proper consent must be sought before administration. … Without informed consent, there are serious legal consequences. And that can result, for example, in a breach of the Guardianship Act, which carries a term of imprisonment.

“…I think that the law about restraint, for example – just one example, but a serious one – is breached every day in a dozen places just in this city alone.

“… In this case, the aged care system is well overdue for a good dose of litigation.”

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, recently held a roundtable discussion in Canberra, after the first Lateline report aired, about how to reduce the rate of over-prescription.   

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), also responded to the Lateline report earlier today.

“We wish to offer our sincere condolences to the daughter who was featured in the report for her loss and acknowledge her concern for her mother,” ACSA CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said.

“Medication management in nursing homes is a highly regulated area. The relevant state Controlled Substances Poisons Acts apply and there are rigorous standards applied by the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency under Standard 2.7, Medication Management.

“All medications in nursing homes require a prescription and/or instructions by a medical practitioner.

“Aged care staff administer the medications in accordance with the instructions of the medical practitioner and always in consideration of the safety and comfort of the residents.

“As people get older they are more likely to suffer from complex chronic conditions that can require multiple medications. Aged care facilities are also caring for residents who may also have a mental illness and may be receiving medication as part of their treatment.

“We had no prior knowledge of the Minister’s investigations or round table discussion and would cooperate fully should an investigation require our assistance.”

ACSA is the national peak body representing mission-based and residential and community aged care organisations providing care, services and accommodation for older people, people with a disability and their carers.

See the interview between Lateline host, Tony Jones and MInister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, after the first program aired on 16 August.

Tags: abc, acsa, alzheimers, antipsychotic, dementia, drugs, elder-law, lateline, rodney-lewis,

1 thought on “Litigation the only way

  1. Thank you so much for highlighting this great tragedy in our age care system. This as you know has been going on for years I believe when people are more aware of their legal options and start taking legal action then we will see change.
    I also believe when the extent of the abuse is finally investigated Australia as a nation will be shamed.
    Thank you for what you have done for the old and vulnerable citizens of Australia.• Earlier this year, a circuit judge in West Virginia upheld a $91.5 million verdict against a nursing home in the death of an 87-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s
    By David Beasley
    ATLANTA | Tue Jul 2, 2013 5:47pm EDT -this is what we need to see here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *