Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Case Shows What Happens When Employees Neglect Patients Who Are Dependent Adults
Employees at a residential treatment center for the developmentally disabled in Albany restricted a man to a small mat on the floor, intentionally starved him, and beat him with blue painted sticks they called magic wands.
At an adult home in Brooklyn, a disabled man nearly choked to death on a corncob after being left in the care of a teenager. He lost nearly 50 pounds when employees did not manage his diet.
These are the claims of parents of people with disabilities who filed lawsuits this month against staff members at those facilities for injuries they say resulted from abuse and neglect. Their lawsuits, filed separately in Federal District Court in Albany and Federal District Court in Brooklyn, and seeking unspecified monetary damages, claim that the abuse continued even after repeated complaints.
An investigation last year by The New York Times found that the agency that finances and oversees the care of people with disabilities, the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, failed to take complaints seriously or curtail the abuse of its residents, resulting in numerous injuries and deaths.
On Monday the family of a severely disabled man filed a lawsuit against staff members for what the parents described as persistent mistreatment of their son, who died of bacterial pneumonia last year at age 22, while living at Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center in Albany. It is one of nine large state institutions that house people with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome and other such conditions.
When the man, identified in the lawsuit by his initials, K. C., tried to crawl off a small blue mat in the corner of his room, the workers used physical and verbal abuse to keep him confined. They stuffed items in his mouth, stepped on his hands, and called him the “walking plague,” according to the lawsuit, which names a supervisor, Lisa Taylor, and five others as participants.
A spokesman for the state agency said he could not comment on pending litigation.
The other lawsuit was filed against Eihab Human Services, a home for adults that also falls under the supervision of the disabilities office. B. W., a developmentally disabled and autistic man, moved to the facility in 2008, shortly after he turned 21. Though he was not allowed to eat hard foods, in 2009 a supervisor left a corncob near B. W. during dinner, which he grabbed and swallowed whole, causing it to lodge in this throat. Medical treatment was required.
B. W. was placed on puréed food after that incident. The suit, which names three employees and Eihab as defendants, claims that the group home did not manage his diet properly, and he dwindled to 56 pounds. Eihab declined to comment.
Last year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo forced the resignation of Max E. Chmura, the commissioner of the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, after learning ofthe Times investigation, and said his administration would undertake a broad review of the state’s care. This year, lawmakers passed legislation, proposed by Mr. Cuomo, to create a new state agency to police the abuse and neglect of vulnerable populations.