The Massachusetts Supreme Court rules that the woman’s hospice entitlement can go forward.
Plaintiff Patricia Marble and her husband have filed a lawsuit against Amedisys, a national hospice service provider. They alleged the facility “overmedicated her with narcotics and falsely confirmed she was eligible for the hospice”. A superior court in Massachusetts has ruled Marble can now bring claims of medical misconduct and unfair consumer practices against the hospice company. Marble had lived in the hospice for five years. During this time, her family became suspicious that she had received an inflated diagnosis and unnecessary prescriptions. The summary record of the judgment states: “Amedisys had a bonus structure, some of which was used as a financial incentive for staff to admit and retain hospice patients,” according to the Supreme Court judgment.
Marble’s medical records indicated that she had “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, severe pulmonary hypertension, obesity, and heart failure,” and her family doctor, Dr. Eric Poston, who had prescribed medically necessary oxygen. Then, in May 2007, Dr. Poston states that Marble “suffered from chronic respiratory failure, was permanently disabled and could no longer maintain employment”. He consulted the medical director of the hospice at an Amedisys facility in Athens, Tennessee, and the two decided that Marble was an option for the hospice. She has been cared for at home since April 2011.
Photo by Omer Shahzad on Unsplash
After Marble moved to Massachusetts that August, Dr. Post it to Beacon Hospice, also owned by Amedisys, and Beacon Medical Director Dr. Peter Roos and Eileen McCoy, Amedisys employees at Beacon’s Plymouth Care Center, began treating her. While under her care, Dr. Roos Marble a fentanyl patch, Vicodin, and morphine, with Beacon paying for the drugs and reimbursed by the government.
“These high doses of narcotics left Marble baffled, unable to leave the house or have normal relationships with her husband, family and friends,” the court records read.
In August 2011, Dr. Roos also awarded and signed an initial hospice certification to ensure financial compliance with Medicare. This states that Marble has a limited life expectancy of six months or less. The doctor testified that he believed that because of her clinical condition, her life expectancy was short. However, in May 2016, Marble’s family became suspicious and had her transferred to the Good Samaritan Medical Center, where doctors immediately discovered that she had taken high doses of addictive drugs. At that time, Marble signed a revocation of her choice of hospice services and was weaned from the opioids.
She had fewer breathing problems “and was no longer confined to her bed or apartment,” explained the Supreme Court ruling, adding: “Marble suffered from stress, anxiety, fear and worry for five years because she believed she was going to die any moment to be able to. “
“It was like someone had turned the light switch back on after five years,” Marble explained.
Ultimately, the superior court found that the summary record of the verdict “posed a real question of material facts regarding whether the defendants not only committed medical misconduct, but injured Marble through unfair and misleading behavior motivated by financial gain”. The court therefore denied the defendants’ motion for a summary judgment and made the decision to allow Marble to continue the litigation.
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