Nursing Homes: Old Age, The Last Segregation by Claire Townsend

An excerpt from the book Old Age, The Last Segregation by Claire Townsend an expose of American nursing homes and their treatment of the elderly.

OLD AGE, THE LAST SEGREGATION. By Claire Townsend, Project Director of Ralph Nader's Study Group Report on Nursing Homes. New York: Bantam Books, 1971.

About the book: A Nader Task Force gives the Nader Treatment to conditions in America's public and private nursing homes.

From the book: Drug companies frequently carry out experimental research on nursing home patients. One woman's report of an experiment involving her mother is a striking example of abuses that can occur. The case is unusual only in that the patient's family made exhaustive inquiries following her death and found that no one--not the Government, or the attending physician, or the home-had been adequately protecting the patient.

According to a Food and Drug Administration report made at the family's insistence after the death of the patient, the G. D. Searle & Company had gained FDA permission to test "Anavar," a drug supposed to increase appetite and retard bone deterioration. The drug was already approved for use in doses of 2.5 milligrams 2 to 4 times a day for no more than 3 months. Searle wanted to test its usage over a long period of time at doses of 10 milligrams once a day.

Although the woman's daughter had expressly told the attending physician not to allow her mother to be given experimental drugs, the nursing home and the attending physician approved her, among others, for the experiment.

After taking the drug for about 6 months, the patient became critically ill. Medical diagnoses never confirmed the cause of illness. No move was ever made to find out whether the experimental drug had caused or contributed to the illness, and the drug continued to be given.

Two months later, the woman died. Both the home and the coroner who filled out the death certificate refused to tell the family exactly how or why the woman died. The home has refused to release the woman's medical records to her family.

The family did obtain a record of the drugs given and discovered the patient had been taking an experimental drug. When they demanded to know why they had not been consulted, the home produced a "consent" document marked with the patient's X. although the patient had been judged senile by her doctor, who recommended that she live in an institution, the home maintained and the FDA concurred that the "consent" of a person medically diagnosed as senile was sufficient.

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