BOSTON (WWLP) -
Nancy Sylvester of Taunton says she brought a beloved 89-year-old friend, Bob, to a Massachusetts hospital to treat a serious infection. But when his infection began to heal, his mental condition deteriorated. Nancy asked for a medication list, and found that Bob was being given anti-psychotic drugs without her permission.
"At first I was shocked because I kept asking why is his behavior like this? Why can't he speak? Why can't he communicate? Why is he deteriorating when you're telling me the infection is getting better? And it was never brought up that he was possibly on these meds," said Sylvester.
Bob's condition worsened. He became unable swallow, developed bed sores and kept receiving antipsychotic drugs without Nancy's permission. He died within weeks. Sylvester is asking state lawmakers to approve legislation that requires patients to give informed consent in advance of any treatment using psychoactive drugs. But the legislation is raising concerns among some doctors.
"We're concerned that this extra level of regulation stigmatizes psychiatric patients and obstructs their access to care," said McLean Hospital Geriatric Psychiatry Director James Ellison.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ("CMS") says 25 percent of long-stay residents in Massachusetts nursing homes received anti-psychotic drugs last year. The national average is about 22 percent. Supporters of Nancy's legislation say it's becoming a dangerous practice across the state.
"I think nursing facilities frequently use psychotropic drugs as a way of quieting residents when they don't have sufficient staff," said Toby Edelman, senior policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy.
CMS also says Healthbridge's Holyoke Rehabilitation Center gave more than 75-percent of its long-stay residents anti-psychotic drugs from April to December of last year.