Wilbert Henry Moten died as a result of cardiovascular disease with diabetes and environmental exposure as a contributing factor according to the medical examiner’s report. He was 65 years old at the time of his death. A investigation by police found that Moten’s death was accidental and that no criminal charges will be filed as a result of the incident. Moten died on April 30, 2016 at GraceWood Rehabilitation and Nursing Care.
The facility was investigated for abuse after a complaint was received that Moten was left outside in the sun so long that he acquired severe burns and dehydration. Police found that several nurses said that he was allowed to move freely around the nursing home and did not need constant supervision. The investigation revealed that Moten went outside between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. until a nurse brought him inside for dinner approximately one hour later.
Thereafter, Moten was found by a nurse slumped over in his wheelchair with a high body temperature at approximately 5:15 p.m. on the outdoor patio.
Florida Nursing Home Patients’ Bill Of Rights
Section 400.022(l), Florida Statutes, as part of the nursing home patients’ bill of rights states that a patient has:
(l) The right to receive adequate and appropriate health care and protective and support services, including social services
The police look at these cases from a criminal standard, which requires a “mens rea” or criminal mind of some sort. I agree that no one intentionally or criminally abused Mr. Moten, however, I am not so sure that the nursing home appropriately decided the level of care that Mr. Moten needed.
The business of nursing homes is to care for people who are unable to care for themselves in their own home. Much like a daycare facility or pre-school that has an obligation not to allow children outside on a playground when the temperatures exceed a certain figure, a nursing home with outdoor spaces has an obligation to have an employee periodically “sweep” the outdoor spaces on hot days to ensure that someone is not out there too long.
The medical examiner’s report does not indicate that the environmental factors were post-mortem (instead, that is listed as a contributing factor to the death). The ability to withstand environmental conditions should be a consideration in the “right to receive adequate and appropriate health care and protective and support services…”
In other words, while nursing home patients are adults and are not deprived of their free will, they should be advised of dangers that they may not recognize, especially during weather extremes. While this is a more extreme hypothetical, a nursing home would likely be held responsible if they allowed a patient to remain outside during a storm even if the patient went out voluntarily.
To be clear, the role of the nursing home is not to restrict the patients but instead would be to keep close enough supervision so that a nursing home patient does not act unreasonably (such as remaining outside during a storm and later developing pneumonia or hypothermia because of prolonged exposure) or dangerously considering their health.