Judge: Nursing homes may not decide for unrepresented, mentally incompetent residents

Anna Gorman
July 26, 2015


A state court ruled unconstitutional a California law that gave nursing homes the ability to choose medical treatment for patients if a doctor determined they were mentally incompetent. The law didn’t require nursing homes to tell patients that they had been designated as incompetent and did not give patients a chance to appeal, therefore violating due process rights. The issue is exacerbated when anti-psychotic drugs or physical restraints are involved, or if a decision is made to forgo life-sustaining treatment and allow patients to pass away.

“What (nursing homes) used to do was routinely make decisions big and small for their residents without really any regard to due process,” said Tony Chicotel of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, which filed the lawsuit in 2013, said “Now the residents are finally going to have their rights acknowledged and honored.” Patients who are mentally compromised should have some say and rights, he said. “They have been ignored. Unrepresented residents and the way they are treated in nursing homes has never been a priority of the Department of Public Health.”

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Organizations mentioned/involved: California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform