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Hospice Owner Accused of Ordering Overdoses

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Hospices are supposed to offer humane end-of-life care for their patients. They are not supposed to hasten the deaths of those patients. However, the system might unintentionally encourage a hospice to hasten the death of patients in some cases as illustrated by a case in Texas. Hospice owner Brad Harris is alleged to have ordered nurses to intentionally overdose patients in four cases. He is also alleged to have asked that patients be found who would be expected to die within 24 hours. Fox News reported on this story in "Texas hospice owner ordered nurses to overdose patients, FBI says."

The motivation for this alleged behavior may have been the way in which hospices are reimbursed by Medicaid and Medicare for patient care. The longer that a patient is in the hospice the less that the hospice gets paid. If the patient stay is too long, the hospice might even have to reimburse the government. Payments are designed this way as a safeguard against hospices taking patients who do not yet need their services. However, that payment system might unintentionally create incentives for bad behavior when hospice patients live longer than expected.

Elder law advocates will undoubtedly monitor this case closely to see if changes need to be made to the system to protect the elderly from abuse.

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