WaPo: Lethal Dose Cases Arise Within Hospice Boom

As the hospice industry continues to grow in America, so too do questions about lethal doses for patients enrolled who are not near death, reports The Washington Post as part of its ongoing series on the hospice industry in America.

While many say hospice care is a favorable way for terminally ill patients to live out their days compared to other types of care, experts say the surge of hospices enrolling patients who aren’t close to death is raising questions as cases of malpractice arise.

There are no statistics on how often such abuses may be occurring.

“In some cases, this practice can expose the patients to the more powerful pain-killers that are routinely used by hospice providers,” The Washington Post writes. “Hospices see higher revenues by recruiting new patients and profit more when they are not near death.”

One of the cases The Washington Post highlights is that of Clinard “Bud” Coffey, 77, a retired corrections officer, who began to have chronic back pain and was enrolled in hospice care soon after.

His family alleges that over a two week period Coffey received rising doses of morphine and other powerful drugs, and soon was found to have dyed peacefully at home.

The doctor who signed the death certificate said cause of death was kidney cancer, but that doctor had never examined Coffey, his family said, and medical records from just a few weeks earlier do not mention it.

“My dad wasn’t dying of cancer,” his son, Jeff Coffey, tells The Washington Post. “Once he was on hospice, their answer for everything was more drugs. Everything we know about his death is consistent with an overdose.”

But the harm in enrolling patients in hospice even though they aren’t dying is also financial.

Multiple lawsuits have sought to recover more than $1 billion in federal money from hospices that have billed for patients who were admitted but not near death, attorneys said.

Medicare rules require that doctors certify that hospice patients are likely to die within six months, but a new study funded by Medicare shows that more than one in three patients were released alive from hospice care.

Read the full article here.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

Cassandra Dowell

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