Nursing Home Deaths Not ‘Mercy Killings'

Investigative Report Points To Disregard For Life

A state report has found that a former nurse at a Woodstock nursing home gave "medication cocktails" to patients she thought had lived long enough or were difficult to care for.

The nursing home is under investigation after six patients died suspiciously in 2006.

A series of suspicious deaths at a McHenry County nursing home in 2006 were likely not mercy killings, but instead the work of a nurse overdosing patients she found troublesome or believed had lived long enough, a local newspaper reported after reviewing state investigatory reports.

No one is identified by name in the Illinois Department of Public Health's 130-page investigative report on the Woodstock Residence. Two former employees face criminal charges including neglect.

The report claims a former nurse was "hastening the death of residents receiving end of life care."

Days after the employees  were charged with criminal neglect, relatives of a 78-year-old woman who died there said they would file a negligence lawsuit against those employees and the home.

Virginia Cole died in 2006 at the Woodstock Residence -- and she was listed as a victim in the indictments returned by a McHenry County grand jury last spring against nurse Marty Himebaugh and nursing director Penny Whitlock.

Himebaugh, a licensed practical nurse, allegedly gave excessive doses of morphine to patients or gave morphine to patients who weren't prescribed the drug.

Cole didn't have a prescription for the drug and didn't need it, family members said. But the criminal indictment alleges she was given the drug on the day she died.

When speaking about a 56-year-old patient with Down syndrome, one of the nurses in question told a co-worker, "Those people aren't meant to live that long. They are meant to die in their teens and I'm going to help him along," the report states.

The state document, first obtained by the Daily Herald, is based on staff interviews.

A health department spokeswoman declined to discuss specifics Thursday, citing confidentiality.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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