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Dec 29, 2021 by |

California Elder Abuse Attorney: Importance Of Post-Mortem Toxicology Reports In Elder Abuse Cases

ATTORNEY NEWSLETTER

Determining Concentration Of Drugs Or Poison

Drug-Induced Deaths

Deaths From Toxic Effects Of Morphine And Other Potent Drugs

Morphine, fentanyl, lorazepam, oxycodone, and other powerful pain relief drugs and anti-psychotics are often prescribed for elders nearing the end of life. In practically all cases, these powerful drugs are administered by others, the senior no longer able to administer their own medications.  Professionals are required to maintain logs of dosages, dates and times the drugs are administered in accordance with the prescribing physician’s orders.  In the wrong hands, however, negligent or intentional overmedication of these drugs can be fatal.  Persons with an eye on a failing senior’s money can hasten death through overmedication.  Post-mortem toxicology reports can detect concentration levels of these drugs in a decedent.  For that reason, we recommend families order a toxicology report whenever they have suspicions about the circumstances of a senior loved one’s death under the care of others.  If you have a senior loved one who has suffered abuse from a caregiver or in a nursing home or hospice program anywhere in California call us today at (415)441-8669 or TOLL FREE 1-888-80EVANS (888-503-8267)

Use Of Autopsies And Toxicology Reports

An autopsy is an external and internal examination of a deceased person’s body to determine cause of death. A toxicology report is an analysis of the decedent’s bodily fluids to determine whether that person had any poisons, drugs or alcohol in her system when she died.  Under California law, the next of kin of a deceased person is entitled to request an autopsy, and, upon request, the autopsy can include a toxicology report. Cal. Gov’t Code § 27520 et seq.  Autopsies are usually performed within 24-48 hours of a reported death by the County Medical Examiner, or coroner. Coroners charge for these services, and the results may take several weeks to obtain. When you request an autopsy of a deceased loved one, be sure to specifically request toxicology test results be included in the coroner’s report.  The toxicology report can be critical.  A forensic toxicologist will isolate and identify any substance in the body that may have contributed to death such as high levels of morphine, fentanyl or other drugs, or alcohol, or a combination of drugs or of drugs and alcohol.

Fatal Morphine Overdose

A recent case provides an example of drug-induced death.  In the case,[1] a hospice caregiver was criminally charged for allegedly giving large amounts of morphine to a hospice resident without having a license to do so.  According to the complaint, the medical examiner determined that the victim died from the toxic effects of morphine, causing police to get involved, investigate the case, and arrest the caregiver.  The case did not allege any financial motive for the overdose.  But an unscrupulous caregiver with intentions on getting a senior’s money and access to potentially lethal drugs is a dangerous combination.  A caregiver who is financially exploiting a dying patient, may hasten death by overmedication of morphine, fentanyl and possibly alcohol or other drugs in the decedent’s final days.  We have seen cases where just such suspicious circumstances surrounded the death of a senior whose caregiver was attempting to take his entire financial estate. 

Contact Us

If you are the family of a deceased person who may have been subject to any kind of abuse at the end of his or her life, you can reach Ingrid M. Evans at (415) 441-8669, or by email at info@evanslaw.com or TOLL FREE 1-888-80EVANS (888-503-8267)).  Ingrid pursues all available remedies for families and injured seniors against those responsible, including an award of attorneys’ fees and costs for the victim or his or her family. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15657.5.

[1] Evans Law Firm, Inc. was not involved in the reported case in any way.

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