A bill has been presented in the Georgia legislation that could change the way that nursing homes and coroners document deaths. The Georgia coroner’s law could remove a nursing home’s ability to sign death certificates without a coroner’s approval.
The Georgia coroner’s law, formerly known as House Bill 262, is currently pending before the General Assembly of the state assembly and seeks to reverse a 1996 law that allowed nursing homes to handle cause-of-death examinations without a coroner. If the bill passes, nursing homes would be required to notify the coroner’s office when a resident passes away.
Some supporters of the Georgia coroner’s law, including the state long-term care ombudsman, Melanie McNeil, believe that allowing nursing homes to self-regulate has created an easy way to cover up abuse. McNeil told reporters for the Augusta Chronicle “Many nursing home residents die of natural causes. (But) sadly, in our state and across the country, we have seen terrible cases of what looks like abuse or neglect of nursing home residents.” McNeil also believes that not only could coroners identify residents who passed from abuse, they could also exonerate nursing home staff members accused of causing a resident’s death.
Richmond County Coroner and president of the Georgia Coroner’s Association, Mark Bowen, has pushed for the Georgia coroner’s law to pass since 2019. Bowen told reporters that this year he is hopeful that it will be passed. Bowen said that the bill would catch the nursing home abuse cases that are falling through the cracks of the system.
William Loomer, who leads the local Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly (CAVE) task force, provided several reasons to pass the Georgia coroner’s law. “self-regulation will always be a concern,” despite the good actors in the industry. Another point that Loomer made to reporters was that many nursing homes conduct in-house investigations of allegations without alerting law enforcement. With the passage of the Georgia coroner’s law, “an impartial investigation of every nursing home death is conducted by the coroner, but I believe it would increase public confidence in the nursing home’s practices in the long run.”
For more information about how to prevent wrongful deaths in nursing homes, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Wrongful Death Page.