Nursing home practices that include giving mind-altering drugs to residents without family representatives to give consent is unconstitutional, an Alameda County Superior Court has ruled.
Since 1992, California nursing homes have used a state law to justify making routine medical decisions for residents who lack mental capacity and do not have family members or other decision-makers.
This has allowed facilities to tie residents to their beds or force them to take antipsychotic drugs that are simply a chemical form of restraint, according to the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR).
On Wednesday, an Alameda judge ruled the state law is unconstitutional because it fails to provide residents with any notice that they may be found “incapacitated” or that medical decisions can be made without their say.
The court held the law violates due process projections.
“The court fails to see how a patient is afforded due process if it is not required that a patient be provided with notice that these determinations have been made as well as advised of the patient’s right to seek court review,” the judge wrote.
The ruling cited as an example a woman named Gloria, who wanted to attend a picnic with a friend and her sister but on the day of the event she was told her doctor found her incompetent and she did not have permission to leave the facility. Gloria described how the nurses threatened to call police if she tried to leave.
Her doctor found her incompetent, but her social worker did not and Gloria said she knew she was not incompetent.
Thus, the judge said, Gloria did not learn she was found incompetent by her doctor until she tried to leave the facility. If she had been given notice, she could have challenged it, avoided feeling like a prisoner, being forced to take drugs and losing control of her finances.
Case: CANHR v. Chapman, No. RG13700100