“Please Don’t Let Me Die!”
In May 2006, a jury awarded $20 million to the family of Loren Richards, an 84-year-old Kentucky man. In addition to the nursing home corporation, two nurses were found culpable in Mr. Richard’s death. In the final hours of his life, Richards screamed in pain as he pleaded for help, “I need a doctor. I need a nurse. . . . Please don’t let me die” (Yetter, 2006). He died about 10 hours after he first complained of pain caused by an untreated bowel obstruction. Thirteen staff, three of whom were nurses, took care of 100 patients on that day. At one point, 10 of the 13 were on break, including all three nurses. That left three nursing assistants to care for everyone. The jury heard testimony that the nurses failed to monitor Richards’ condition or respond to symptoms including pain and vomiting. The family alleged that there was an acute shortage of staff at the facility, owned by the nation’s largest nursing home chain. Defendants’ attorneys responded that the case was really about the family’s greed (Kocher, 2006). In recent years, the nursing home corporation has been hit with wrongful-death lawsuits in five states.