California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Nurse Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison for “Convenience Drugging” Elder Patients

Commentary by San Diego Criminal Defense and California Professional License & Statewide Administrative Law Attorney Sam Spital:

“On January 9, 2013, the Sierra Sun Times, a local newspaper in Mariposa County, California, reported Gwen Hughes pled nolo contendere and was sentenced to three years in state prison for one count of felony elder abuse with a special allegation that the abuse contributed to the victim’s death. The article revealed the former licensed Registered Nurse ordered the administration of psychotropic medications to 23 elderly residents under care and treatment for Alzheimer’s or dementia at a skilled nursing facility who were noisy, complained &/or were argumentative as well as prone to wandering, to control and quiet them for the convenience of the staff and not for therapeutic reasons and/or prescribed by a medical doctor. According to the news article, the drugs accelerated the death of 3 patients, and all of the specific residents in question experienced an adverse physical reaction.

For a copy of the the Court Order previously suspending her license, you can click the following link:http://rn.ca.gov/public/rn260423.pdf The online license history of the former RN reveals she also allowed her license to expire (see: http://www2.dca.ca.gov/pls/wllpub/WLLQRYNA$LCEV2.QueryView?P_LICENSE_NUMBER=260423&P_LTE_ID=828) The article also noted the Medical Director of the facility, Dr. Hoshang Pormir, failed to conduct examinations and monitor the reaction to medications and as a result was placed on probation by the Court, required to make restitution in the civil lawsuits that were pending and to perform 300 hours of voluntary service.

Nothing was reported concerning any interview or dialogue with the nurse or physician, their prior employment and social history, mitigation and’/or remorse, if any. Since there are many factors considered in the sentencing of a defendant, these elements are critical to the analysis by a criminal court judge. Crimes are generally punished according to the seriousness of the offense. As a criminal defense lawyer as well as in administrative law matters, I argue in favor of mitigation, using some or all of the following elements: (1) a client’s prior criminal record; (2) her age; (3) her work history; (4) her social and family history, including use of drugs and/or alcohol; (5) her religious history; (6) whether a weapon was used in the offense. Clearly, the circumstances surrounding a crime may be of interest, however the defendant’s personal history can be persuasive as well as significant factors of rehabilitation and remorse.”

–Sam Spital