A legal case out of Chicago caught the eyes of our Pennsylvania nursing home abuse lawyers. The Chicago Daily Herald reported Feb. 25 that the former director of a nursing home is being tried for neglect and obstructing justice for her role in a scandal involving a nurse who allegedly euthanized patients. Penny Whitlock, 60, directed the Woodstock Residence Nursing Home during a series of suspicious deaths in 2006. Nurse Marty Himebaugh is accused in the case of "playing Angel of Death" by giving dangerously high doses of drugs to selected patients.
Himebaugh is accused of causing at least four deaths at Woodstock. At first, investigators thought these were "mercy killings," but state investigators later found evidence that she chose patients who she thought were difficult or annoying. Other nurses reported to Whitlock that Himebaugh was acting strange and once said she'd given a patient a cocktail so she wouldn't bother her during her shift. Himebaugh faces felony charges of neglect and possession of a controlled substance. Whitlock herself is accused of failing to follow up on those and other complaints, even allegedly saying Himebaugh could "continue to play Angel of Death." Both women face a maximum of three years in prison, and are also targeted by civil nursing home abuse lawsuits from victims' families.
Our Philadelphia nursing home negligence attorneys wish those families the best of luck pursuing justice from Himebaugh, Whitlock and Woodstock. From an earlier story, we learned that prosecutors have chosen not to charge either woman with murder because they're not sure they can prove that charge beyond a reasonable doubt. In cases like this, families may have no chance to hold wrongdoers responsible in the criminal courts. Instead, they can turn to the civil courts, where the standard of proof is slightly lower -- a preponderance of the evidence. This allows them a day in court as well as a chance to recover damages for the pain, suffering and expense of a severe nursing home abuse case.