Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Unenviable Shrinking Man

This story clearly demonstrates medical neglect, which happens in group homes and foster care homes throughout our country. Are they all bad? Of course not. Some of these homes are wonderful. But there are far too many that are just plain awful.

BOUNTIFUL, Utah (ABC 4 News) - State investigators are looking into the death of a man who died at a group home in Bountiful.

Eric Hale was mentally challenged and had autism.

He died Wednesday at Lakeview hospital. And that’s where a long time friend went to visit him.

“He was such a skeleton and had not moved in so long that he was in a fetal position and his knees could not be pried apart,” said his friend Nancy who did not want her last name released.

Hospital staff won't release cause of death but Nancy said in her opinion it was obvious he'd been neglected.

"How did he go from 190 pounds and being healthy, able to walk to care for himself to 100 pounds, with a punctured bowel, vomiting feces and then resulting in dying,” she said.

And she said Hale, who was living at this group home in Bountiful was covered in bedsores and his body was locked in a fetal position.

"Its common sense if someone stops eating, its common sense if someone has severe deep bed sores all over his body that they are being neglected and not taken care for,” she said.

Nancy admits she had not seen Hale in over a year, but his condition at the hospital shocked her. And it appears to have shocked police as well. They asked the state to investigate his death.

“We just know that a man passed away in a facility and bountiful police asked us to look at it to see if there's any criminal issues here," said attorney general spokesman Paul Murphy.

REM of Utah owns several group homes including the one where Hale was living.

In a statement released by John Harbert, the state director of REM UTAH, it said “We are deeply saddened by the passing of an individual in our care and extend our deepest sympathies to all who loved him. Due to the on-going investigation into this matter, we can have no further comment at this time except to say that we are cooperating with the investigating authorities.”

The state agency which regulates them says Hale was checked on in early March.

“There had been ongoing concerns with health and (staff was) monitoring it as well as can be,” said Scott Kline of the Services for People with Disabilities. “There was concern with weight loss … they had checked with the providers to assure things were being addressed.” But when Nancy saw Hale at the hospital she believed someone didn't do their job.

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