The Texas Hospice Investigated for Hastening its Patients’ Deaths

The FBI and a state agency in charge of hospice regulations are looking into allegations that a Frisco-based hospice company over-medicated its patients and, possibly, hastened their deaths.

By Joy Diaz & Laura RiceMay 16, 2016 10:47 am| ,

Putting a loved one into hospice care can be a difficult and heartbreaking decision. For those diagnosed with terminal conditions, hospice care is typically oriented toward providing as peaceful a transition to death as possible. But what if you knew that the company caring for your loved one sped along that transition?

The FBI is investigating allegations that nurses at a Frisco-based hospice company were ordered to end the lives of some of its sickest patients.

Holly Hacker, the Dallas Morning News reporter who obtained government inspection reports at the facility, says the company, Novus Health Services, was caring for as many as 900 patients up until a few years ago.

“The FBI investigation was looking into whether management there was ordering nurses to give more morphine than maybe they should have,” she says, “to hasten the death of patients in order to make profits.”

Hacker says hospice is covered by Medicare and there’s a $27,000 cap. After a facility reaches that amount, based on the price of an average patient’s stay, it’s required to pay the government the difference. The allegation, then, is that as a patient neared the $27,000 amount, staff sped along the patient’s demise – an allegation that the company “vehemently” denies, Hacker says.

“They say they haven’t even seen the allegations in writing,” she says. “There have been no charges filed and no arrests made.”

A few weeks after the FBI investigation began, a state agency that regulates hospices received a complaint about patient records and sent a state surveyor to examine the company’s patient records. “They (came) back with the determination that ten patients had received excessive medication,” Hacker says.

Hacker says federal investigators have requested emails and text messages to see how the company has handled its patients and their health. The state agency is looking into possible failures by nurses to document patients’ medication and treatment. Hacker says families of those patients were largely happy with their loved ones’ care but some said toward the end of their family members’ lives, they questioned the use of medication. No families have filed formal complaints against the facility.

“They say, We still have questions, we still feel uneasy about some stuff,” Hacker says.

The FBI has no timeline on when their investigation will wrap up, Hacker says. Novus has filed an appeal of the violations at the state level and is waiting for a hearing date.

Post prepared by Hannah McBride.