The tragic 2014 death of an 89-year-old WWII veteran has recently come into the spotlight following the release of hidden camera footage that shows nursing staff failing to administer CPR as he gasped for breath and pleaded for help, the video even shows the staff laughing at him over his bed. The footage, which was obtained by NBC and covered in a recent article from The Washington Post, was obtained from a secret camera hidden in the man’s room at Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation facility, a nursing home on the outskirts of Atlanta.
Although the man and his family knew of the hidden camera, staff did not. Following his 2014 death and a review of the video captured that day, the man’s family decided to sue the facility, which settled the case for a confidential amount and attempted to have the footage sealed from public view by court order.
As the footage shows, the man pressed the nurse call button shortly after 4:30 am, and called repeatedly for help. Eight minutes after the initial call was made a nurse responded, adjusted the man’s bed and inspected tubes around his neck before turning off the call light and leaving him alone. After returning to the man’s room an hour after the first nurse responded, staff found him unconscious. However, almost a full hour passed before they called 911.
At a deposition over a year after the incident, a nursing supervisor on duty that morning testified that it looked like the man was gasping for air, and that it was an emergency situation. She also stated initially that she and another nurse took turns performing constant CPR, which they must not stop unless told to do so by a doctor. However, video footage shows that the nursing supervisor had entered the man’s room before 6:30 am, where she joined another nurse who stood by his bed. The footage shows a nurse flipping up the man’s sheet and lowering his bed. Neither nurse performed CPR or appeared to touch his chest.
A third staff member then joined the two nurses, and despite the man not moving, no attempts to perform CPR were made. Footage from the hidden camera also revealed that nurses were having difficulty getting the man’s oxygen machine to work, which is when the nursing supervisor pressed both hands onto the man’s mattress, rather than his body, and someone in the room laughed. Shortly after, she then attempted CPR on the man, but stopped after pumping his chest only several times.
The lawsuit sparked by the footage was ultimately settled confidentially by the nursing home, which also waged a legal battle to have the video sealed by a court. It was only released on a judge’s order. The nurse supervisor and other nursing staff in the video had their licenses revoked by the Georgia Board of Nursing.
Seeking Justice, Compelling Change
It bears reminding that we are able to discuss this tragic case on a national scale only because the nursing home was compelled by the court to release footage of the unacceptable events that took place on the morning of the victim’s death. Just as many companies attempt to protect their image and shield themselves from accountability following preventable injuries and deaths, as well as negligent conduct, this particular nursing home attempted to keep the alarming footage away from the media and public.
As our firm sees all too often in the cases we handle, including those involving nursing home abuse, powerful corporations attempting to keep cases under wraps becomes a major hurdle in the fight for justice. Not only do these secretive efforts prevent the public from obtaining information that may influence their decisions to choose a particular nursing home, or keep their loved ones at a certain facility, they also provide the opportunity for patterns of negligent and unacceptable conduct to persist and continue to harm others.
In nursing home abuse, personal injury, and other civil cases we handle at Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP, we understand the work we do is not only important to securing justice and compensation on behalf of victims and families, but also to compelling change that protects public safety. By harnessing the power of the civil justice system and raising awareness, we play an important role in preventing unacceptable acts of neglect and tragedy, including acts similar to what it now being discussed in this unfortunate event. This fight for justice motivates us to succeed in every case.