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Medical malpractice: Nursing home patients victims of rape

Patients in nursing homes in New Jersey and across the country are often placed there in order to ensure they receive the medical care they require. Often, residents are unable to speak, have cognitive issues that impairs their memories and require assistance to leave their beds. They are vulnerable and rely on the staff of nursing homes for protection. Unfortunately, some fall victim to medical malpractice, including negligence that results in sexual assault.

For example, a staff member at one out-of-state facility caught a nursing home employee in the act of sexually assaulting an 83-year-old woman. The nursing home took immediate action and contacted authorities. The man pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the case.

Although the man claimed that the incident was an aberration of character, his personnel records may tell a different story. He had previously been suspended three different times because he was a suspect after sexual abuse allegations were made in different cases. In one of the cases, a deaf and blind patient claimed she was assaulted on multiple occasions, always at the same time of night -- a time that the man accused in the previous case was on shift. However, because the Department of Health ruled that the facility acted immediately when the staff member witnessed the other sexual assault, the facility was not fined or cited.

Unfortunately, sexual assault victims in nursing homes have difficulty ensuring that their voices are heard. Nursing home facilities are often reluctant to investigate allegations because they either do not believe them or want to keep them hidden while police officers may question the credibility of victims because their cognitive impairment impacts their memories of events in certain cases. However, medical malpractice occurs when patients are harmed due to negligence on the part of the facilities and staff entrusted to protect them. While it may be difficult to prove such claims in criminal court in some cases, many families in New Jersey are able to obtain justice in a civil court due to the lower burden of proof required.

Source: CNN, "SICK, DYING AND RAPED IN AMERICA'S NURSING HOMES", Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, Feb. 22, 2017

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