Elderly Health Care: The Line Between Care and Killing Essay example

The article Elderly health care: The line between care and killing, from the Hearld-Review, illustrates the many problems the courts have with elder abuse cases. The case involved the death of 91 year-old Maria “Concha” Lopez of Madera, California who was being cared for by her 26 year-old grandniece, Stephanie Hernandez. Ms. Hernandez called 911 when her aunt stopped breathing. Arriving firefighters and paramedics were inundated with the odor of urine, feces, and rotting flesh emanating from piles of soiled diapers, used bandages and the patient. Ms. Lopez weighed about 35 pounds and had bedsores so deep that you could touch her bones and the metal rod in her hip. Ms. Hernandez was charged with murder for failure to give adequate care to her aunt. The trial took five weeks with the defense attorneys showing Ms. Hernandez as a loving niece whose efforts kept an old woman alive and the prosecutor describing Ms. Lopez’s condition as the result of severe criminal negligence. After watching her three sisters die in hospitals, Ms. Lopez had made her family promise that she would not be taken to a hospital. The family expected Ms. Hernandez, who also had a small child, to take care of Ms. Lopez after she broke her hip. During the trial, the experts disagreed on whether the bed sores were caused by neglect or because her skin failed when she lost over half her body weight. The jury deliberated for two days and even sent a note to the judge asking if involuntary manslaughter was murder. The jury found Ms. Hernandez not guilty of murder, involuntary manslaughter, and felony elder abuse and deadlocked on misdemeanor elder abuse. The jurors said that there was not sufficient evidence that Ms. Hernandez intended to harm her great-au…

…o recover the stolen money and property. Also, some victims die before their case makes it through the court system. Many states are attempting to change this by enacting new statutory remedies for victims of elder abuse.Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines judges may consider aggravating circumstances when sentencing decisions. A typical aggravating circumstance that applies to elder abuse is if the defendant took advantage of a position of trust or confidence to commit the offense. (Schmalleger, pg 321) Before a judge can impose a sentence, a jury has to find a defendant guilty. It is often difficult to obtain a guilty verdict in a case involving elder abuse, as the case against Ms. Hernandez illustrated. Medicine and the law are not yet able to adequately answer the difficult questions facing doctors, courts and families in regards to elder abuse.

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