A wrongful death civil lawsuit has been filed against a Greeneville nursing home and several other defendants alleging wrongdoing in the care the facility gave an elderly dementia patient.
In the complaint, filed Dec. 2, 2014, in Greene County Circuit Court, the plaintiff, Robin Tweed Keller, of Virginia, alleges that medical battery and negligence by Life Care Center of Greeneville resulted in the suffering and eventual death of her father, Bobby Glenn Tweed, on Nov. 19, 2013, at the age of 79.
The suit identifies Keller as Tweed's only daughter and his next-of-kin -- and the person he had designated his Tennessee Healthcare Durable Power-of-Attorney in September 2009.
She is also identified as the court-appointed representative of his estate.
Defendants named in the lawsuit are:
* Life Care Center of Greeneville, 725 Crum St.;
* Life Care Centers of America Inc., based in Cleveland, Tenn., the parent company of Life Care Center of Greeneville and more than 100 other similar centers in the nation;
* Wayne E. Tasker & Associates Inc., of Morristown, doing business as Green Tasker & Associates Inc., and Tasker Green & Associates Inc., a firm which Keller believes provides services to Life Care Centers in connection with the mental health of patients;
* Dr. William C. Diebold, a medical doctor and board-certified psychiatrist with Takoma Regional Hospital's Center for Outpatient Behavioral Health and Senior Care, who, the lawsuit states, treated Tweed at one point during the last months of his life;
* Stephen L. Haile, an advanced-practice registered nurse who the plaintiff believes to be an officer or employee of the Tasker firm; and
* Dr. Kenneth Nickle, a physician with Summit Medical Group, who, the lawsuit states, served as medical director of Life Care Center of Greeneville during the last three months of Tweed's life and, in that capacity, treated Tweed for two-and-a-half to three months.
Also cited as a defendant is an unnamed female who, the complaint states, was employed at Life Care Center of Greeneville. The lawsuit alleges that she was involved in the care and treatment of Tweed and administered certain "atypical anti-psychotic drugs" without obtaining the legally-required informed consent from Keller.
The Greeneville Sun has made attempts to seek comment from each defendant listed in the complaint. Each defendant contacted has declined comment on the pending case at this time.
WHAT LAWSUIT CLAIMS
The suit alleges that, for a few days in August 2013 at Takoma Regional Hospital and then continuing until mid-October 2013 at Life Care Center of Greeneville, Tweed was administered powerful drugs that were inappropriate for his medical condition: dementia and Alzheimer's disease (but not mental illness).
The drugs mentioned in the lawsuit -- Seroquel, Geodon and Depakote -- are described in the suit as "extremely powerful psychotropic medications" classified as "atypical anti-psychotic drugs."
Seroquel and Geodon, the suit alleges, "and other atypical anti-psychotic drugs" have been shown to increase death in elderly patients who are suffering from dementia.
Because of that increased risk of death, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required the manufacturers of Seroquel and Geodon to include "black box" warnings about the danger of using those drugs with elderly patients who are suffering from dementia, the suit alleges.
The suit describes Depakote as "an anti-epileptic drug, which is used to treat a variety of epilepsy seizure types as well as acute manic symptoms in patients with bipolar disorder."
But, the suit continues, "It has not been approved by the FDA for use with Alzheimer's disease or dementia."
ALLEGATION: 'NO INFORMED CONSENT'
"Despite these warnings and risks, these and other drugs were ordered and approved by Haile and Nickle and administered to Mr. Tweed by nurses or employees at the Life Care facility over an extended period of time," the complaint says.
"Defendants did not obtain informed consent from Plaintiff prior to administering these drugs to her father ...
"Upon information and belief, such medications were being given not because Mr. Tweed needed the medication to treat his illness or to improve his quality of life but to make him a more docile, compliant and passive patient."
The lawsuit summarizes at one point: " ... the defendant failed to obtain informed consent for the treatment of [Keller's] father and deviated from the standard of care in providing medical treatment while he was under their care.
"As a direct and proximate result of defendants' acts and omissions, Mr. Tweed suffered serious and debiliating harm and injuries, ultimately resulting in death."
Keller is being represented by attorneys from the Knoxville-based law firm of Kennerly, Montgomery and Finley, P.C., and the national AARP Foundation Litigation, a legal advocacy arm of the organization.
FAMILY 'JUST HEARTBROKEN'
According to a news release issued Jan. 7 by the AARP Foundation Litigation, Keller said, "Our entire family is just heartbroken about what happened to Daddy.
"He was a great man who taught us to be true to our beliefs and to always help to protect others.
"We hope this case brings awareness to people who have family members with dementia who are in nursing homes," Keller added in the release.
STATEMENTS BY PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEYS
In a statement in the Jan. 7 AARP release, Michael Kelley, one of the Knoxville attorneys representing Keller, stated, "Precisely because they are unable to make health-care decisions for themselves, elderly patients with dementia and Alzheimer's disease are among the most vulnerable persons in our society.
"For their protection, it is essential that psychotropic drugs be administered only after full and frank conversations with the patient's family and only if the medication is being given to improve the patient's quality of life."
The release also quoted the plaintiff's attorneys as stating that "inappropriate and overmedication of nursing facility residents is a national problem.
"On March 29, 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched a national initiative to reduce the use of anti-psychotic medications in nursing homes."
Kelly Bagby, of AARP Foundation Litigation, is also serving as counsel for the plaintiff.
In the release she said: "It is my belief that this litigation will raise awareness about the unnecessary use of chemical restraints in nursing facilities and the need for physicians to have meaningful discussions about the side effects and alternatives to these powerful drugs."