Healthcare News & Insights

Report: Patient abuse goes unreported, undisciplined

Employees who abused developmentally disabled patients in state-run group homes faced few consequences. In most cases they were simply transferred to other facilities.

That’s the shocking result of a recent year-long investigation by reporters at the New York Times.

According to the report, the reporters reviewed hundreds of cases of workers at homes who had physically and sexually abused the patients, neglected their basic needs and threatened them.

In most cases, the employees were simply transferred to other homes. In only 5% of the cases were the incidents reported to law enforcement as required by the state. (Reporting for sexual abuse incidents was higher than average, but still a deplorable 25%.)

A spokesperson for the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, which oversees the homes, said that in many cases, the agency was unable to go after employees more harshly due to the employee union and because the patients are often too disabled or cognitively impaired to assist the investigation.

In one particularly egregious example, a supervisor was found with his pants around his ankles, standing between the legs of a severely disabled 54-year-old woman. The patient’s diaper had been pulled down. A rape kit was administered and semen was found on her body. Even though there was an eyewitness to the incident and physical evidence, the supervisor, Ricky W. Sousie, was placed on administrative leave and eventually transferred to another home.

The patient was unable to communicate and had no family in contact with her, and the case drifted off everyone’s radar screens without further investigation. Nearly two years later, when one police detective decided to pursue the case Sousie’s DNA was finally compared to that of the semen from the rape kit.

It was a match. Because of the patient’s inability to aid the investigators, Sousie was convicted solely of a misdemeanor: endangering an incompetent person. He did less than a year in jail. (Sousie told the Times reporters that he was merely tucking in his shirt, and no sexual assault took place.)

Sousie’s case is far from singular. The report details numerous other incidents, including an aid who threatened a patient with a knife, many staffers who punched, slapped or kicked patients who weren’t responding to requests, and another who instructed a disabled woman to “shake your booty and your boobs” in a dance for him.

Some staffers contacted for the article blamed the incidents on a lack of training when dealing with patients who can could be violent, uncommunicative and unruly.

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  1. […] While these complaints are specific to California, it’s hardly the only state where malpractice is dealt with something less than haste.The real question is why some states seem to make it a practice to do little more than wink at physicians’ serious missteps. […]