A nurse stood by and did nothing as a central Minnesota nursing home resident suffered numerous violent and painful seizures in his final hours, shrugging off pleas from a loved one who was there begging the caregiver to intervene, a state death investigation released this week revealed.
A Minnesota Health Department investigation lasting six months ruled that the nurse’s neglect was to blame for the anguish that 58-year-old Kenneth L. Allers endured last August for at least 11 hours at the Sterling Park Health Center in Waite Park.
The licensed practical nurse, who is not identified in the state’s findings released this week, was suspended during the investigation and later fired.
Allers, who was suffering from non-alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver, died Aug. 8 from what an autopsy determined was natural causes.
His final hours were consumed with at least seven seizures, a few lasting less than a minute but one going on for 1½ minutes followed by another lasting 2 minutes, the state investigation noted.
The attacks left an unresponsive Allers biting off pieces of his tongue and inner cheek and bleeding from his mouth, but the nurse refused to alert his doctor or give him medication to ease his anguish or fight off the seizures, the state found.
It wasn’t until another nurse came on duty that evening that Allers was given morphine. The seizures quickly stopped and the pain subsided, investigators reported.
“The [nurse] did not give any explanation as to why she did not contact the physician or seek additional assistance” from the higher-ranking registered nurse who was on call as his “whole body [was] shaking rapidly,” the report read.
The report stated that Rita O’Byrne, Allers’ ex-wife, was at the care center during the seizures and begged the nurse to intervene and give Allers medication for his pain. But the caregiver said she didn’t have the proper orders to do so. In another instance, the nurse said there was no pain medication available.
At one point as the seizures kept coming, according to the state report, O’Byrne said to the nurse, “It looks like [Allers] is in pain!” The nurse replied, “Yes, it does” and walked out of the resident’s room without another word.
Not long after, the report continued, O’Byrne screamed, “Somebody help me!” just outside of Allers’ room. “But the nurse never came,” it read.
O’Byrne acknowledged in an interview that Allers’ death was imminent, but “we’re talking about a human being’s life here. He didn’t have to be in the pain that he was in.”
O’Byrne said she had butted heads earlier with staff about Allers’ treatment, in particular about the timing of his medication. “Apparently, [the nurse] didn’t like me confronting her,” O’Byrne said. “I think she was angry with me and took it out on Ken, as sad as that sounds.”