Anyone familiar with nursing home abuse cases has likely run across complaints regarding the unnecessary or illegal use of chemical restraints on patients. Sadly, while these powerful drugs may properly play a role in some cases, they are overused far too often with no legitimate medical purpose.
What is a chemical restraint?
When people discuss chemical restraints they are talking about the use of powerful psychotropic drugs that work by making patients compliant and docile. The antipsychotic medications are given most often to patients with dementia, most of whom have no diagnosis to warrant their use. The drugs include things like tranquilizers and sedatives, which come with powerful and potentially dangerous side effects.
Effects of chemical restraint
Using prescription medication to sedate patients takes a considerable toll on their health over the long haul. These drugs place nursing home residents at a much greater risk of suffering injury and even death. Some examples of dangerous side effects include metabolic disorders including weight gain and diabetes, cardiovascular damage and even neurological damage leading to tremors and movement disorders. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the unnecessary use of antipsychotic medication results in the death of more than 15,000 nursing patients each and every year.
Are the drugs ever justified?
Yes, there are certainly cases where antipsychotic medications are beneficial to patients who might harm themselves or others. However, given the serious side effects associated with the drugs, when they are being used purely as a means of quieting or restraining patients, there is no benefit.
Penalties for improper use of chemical restraint
Federal law is clear that nursing home residents have the right to remain free from any unnecessary physical or chemical restraints. That means doctors and nursing home staff members cannot needlessly medicate residents who present no threat to themselves or others. Should a nursing home fail to abide by this requirement, it is opening itself up to potential punishment by regulators as well as a civil suit from patients and family members whose loved ones were subjected to the needless chemical restraint.
What should you do?
According to recent guidance by the American Psychiatric Association, patients and family members should strictly scrutinize the use of any antipsychotic medication for elderly individuals suffering from dementia. Rather than simply accept the medication as a given, push back and demand justification or even a second opinion. If you are still not getting anywhere, it may be time to consider consulting an experienced South Carolina nursing home injury lawyer who has dealt with cases of medication overuse before.