Suspicious Senior Deaths Often Go Uninvestigated
Shoddy practices, lack of standards create 'hidden scandal': ProPublica
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2011 2:51 PM CST
A ProPublica investigation suggests that the deaths of seniors aren't getting the attention they should.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Too many suspicious deaths of senior citizens go uninvestigated because the nation's coroner and medical examiner's offices don't have the money, time, or inclination to look into them, reports ProPublica. It found about 40 cases in which alleged neglect, abuse, or possibly murder went undetected until whistleblowers brought attention to them, sometimes after burial. One health policy researcher describes it as a "hidden national scandal."

One stat behind the problem: The percentage of autopsies on US seniors dropped from 37 to 17 between 1972 and 2007. Coroners will frequently write off a senior's death to natural causes because the treating physician declared it to be so, but those doctors routinely miss the real cause of death, particularly in nursing home patients. "Sometimes, if I don't want to sleep at night, I think about all the cases that we miss," says a Colorado coroner. "I'm afraid we're not looking very hard." Read the full piece here, which includes a look at how Arkansas is leading the way in change.

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Showing 3 of 9 comments
Dec 23, 2011 3:35 AM CST
Truly Disturbing. My mother "died" during the "care" of my sister, who hated her. I saw my Mom just before she died. She was fine. Then...boom. I still don't believe she died of "natural causes. I read the other posts and feel for you all that have similar stories.
Dec 22, 2011 7:20 AM CST
My "Ex" died in a nursing home. We divorced in our 30's and were at peace with our dissolved marriage. Somehow, he managed to starve himself to death! And no one in the nursing home even noticed that he had stopped eating...??!! own parents had a great phobia about being "put away" in their old age...called the "homes for the aged" nothing more than a place to be put to be forgotten until you died. Perhaps they were wouldn't be the first time! BTW..neither of them were placed into a nursing home..we "kids" had them live with us until they died. ....guess I better plan on floating away on an iceberg or something...just saying...
Dec 21, 2011 8:05 PM CST
I'm getting increasingly scared to get old and need care.My mom died while going through rehab at a nursing home because she contracted a respiratory ailment from an unclean humidifier. The homewas never held responsible because lawyers I contacted refused to take the case. They said there was no money in it for them because any money we got from the home would be taken by Medicare to pay for her hospital care in her last week. And the home is coming after ME for over $700.00 because they 'held' her bed for her for a week while she was in ICU. My mom was my only remaining relative. We were very close. That home killed my mom through negligence and will never be held responsible for it much less change their ways. My mom didn't deserve to die the way she did. I hope someone starts paying attention and doing something about this soon...before I get old.