Nurse Convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter for Drugging Patient, Causing Patient’s Death

Morphine_vial.JPGA nurse in Durham, North Carolina pleaded guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and patient abuse when a nursing home resident under her care died. Prosecutors accused her of drugging patients under her care in order to “keep them quiet.”

Angela Almore worked as a nurse at Britthaven of Chapel Hill, a nursing home located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She was reportedly working the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift in the home’s Alzheimer’s unit on February 13, 2010. Seven residents were taken to a nearby hospital in the early morning of February 14 for respiratory issues. All seven of them tested positive for opiates, although it reportedly took doctors several hours to determine what was wrong with the patients. One of the residents, 84 year-old Rachel Holliday, died at the hospital. The cause of death was determined to be pneumonia due to morphine toxicity. The other six residents received treatment for various respiratory ailments and eventually returned to the nursing home.

Fourteen of the approximately twenty-five residents in the Alzheimer’s unit tested positive for morphine. Only one of the residents had a prescription for the powerful opiate. During the subsequent investigation of Holliday’s death and the positive toxicology tests, several employees stated that they had seen Almore giving an orange fluid to patients that did not look like the patients’ regular medication. According to the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case, employees said that Almore told them she did not want to deal with patients during that shift, and that she had given them something to “relax.” Almore also allegedly stated that “she knocked all their asses out.” One employee who worked in the Alzheimer’s unit told the judge presiding over the case that none of the drugged patients ever caused trouble for the staff.

Prosecutors charged Almore with one count of second-degree murder and six felony counts of patient abuse several months after Holliday’s death. She spent 107 days in jail after her arrest in 2010, eventually receiving a bond. Amore pleaded guilty to the six counts of patient abuse and one count of involuntary manslaughter on Monday, June 4, 2012. The judge sentenced her to sixteen to twenty months in prison, but she received credit for time already served. The judge also split the sentence, meaning Almore will likely spend five additional months in jail and thirty months on probation under court supervision.

The nursing home was subject to an extensive investigation by the state. By the time of Almore’s first court appearance in June 2010, four months after the incident, none of the employees on duty at the time had returned to work, according to news reports at the time. The home has had several investigations in recent years. It reportedly received a $510,000 fine from the state in 1997 after a patient died in her room. In 2002, investigators concluded that staffers failed to follow emergency procedures when a resident suffered a fatal injury.

Nursing homes have a legal responsibility for providing diligent care and a safe environment for their residents. The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen help obtain compensation for people injured due to abuse or neglect by nursing home staff. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Family of Man Who Died from Bedsores Receives $3.2 Million Jury Award, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, May 8, 2012
Nursing Home to Appeal $91.5 Million Negligence and Wrongful Death Settlement, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, August 26, 2011
Nursing Home Sued in Two Different Wrongful Death Lawsuits, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, July 25, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Morphine vial’ by Vaprotan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

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