Massachusetts superior court rules woman’s hospice claim can move forward.
Plaintiff Patricia Marble and her husband have filed a lawsuit against Amedisys, a national provider of hospice services, alleging the facility “overmedicated her with narcotics and falsely certified that she was hospice eligible.” A Massachusetts superior court has ruled Marble can now move forward with her claims for medical malpractice and unfair consumer practices against the hospice company. Marble had lived for five years in hospice during which time her family became suspicious she had received an inflated diagnosis and being given prescriptions unnecessarily. Summary judgment records reported, “Amedisys had a bonus structure in place that served, in part, as financial incentive for staff to admit and retain hospice patients,” according to the Superior Court ruling.
Marble’s medical records indicated she suffered from “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, severe pulmonary hypertension, obesity and congestive heart failure,” and her primary care physician, Dr. Eric Poston had prescribed medically necessary oxygen. Then, in May 2007, Dr. Poston determined Marble suffered from “chronic respiratory failure, was permanently disabled, and unable to maintain employment.” He consulted with the hospice medical director of an Amedisys facility in Athens, Tennessee, and the two decided Marble was eligible for hospice. She began receiving care at home in April 2011.
After Marble moved to Massachusetts in August of that year, Dr. Poston referred her to Beacon Hospice, also owned by Amedisys, and Beacon Medical Director Dr. Peter Roos and Eileen McCoy, employees of Amedisys at Beacon’s Plymouth Care Center, began treating her. While under their care, Dr. Roos prescribed Marble a fentanyl patch, Vicodin, and morphine with Beacon paying for the medications, being reimbursed by the government.
“These high doses of narcotic medication left Marble stupefied, unable to leave the house or have normal relationships with her husband, family and friends,” court records stated.
In August 2011, Dr. Roos also filled out and signed a Hospice Initial Certification to maintain financial compliance with Medicare stating that Marble had a limited life expectancy of six months or less. The physician testified he believed she had a short life expectancy based on her clinical condition. In May 2016, however, Marble’s family became suspicious and had her transferred to the Good Samaritan Medical Center where doctors immediately noted she had been taking high doses of addictive medications. At that time, Marble signed a revocation of her election of hospice care benefits and was weaned off of the opioids.
She had fewer breathing issues “and was no longer confined to her bed or home,” the superior court ruling stated, adding, “Marble suffered stress, anxiety, anguish and worry for five years believing that she could die at any moment.”
“It was as if someone turned the light switch back on after five years,” Marble explained.
Ultimately, the superior court found that the summary judgment record demonstrated “a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether the defendants not only committed medical malpractice, but also injured Marble through unfair and deceptive conduct that was motivated by financial gain.” The court has, therefore, denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgement and has made the decision to allow Marble to proceed with the litigation.
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