After a series of suspicious deaths in nursing homes that have gone unpunished, a proposed new law would require nursing homes to report all deaths to the county coroner. The proposal comes after a paper published a series of articles about how the system sometimes fails to properly investigate abuse in nursing homes.

Under the proposed law, once the coroner receives the report of a death, he or she would then determine if abuse could have been a factor in the death. If abuse appears likely, the coroner would then have to alert law enforcement officials. The bill would also increase the penalties for failing to report abuse or neglect of a nursing home resident.

Under the old system, if abuse or other danger played a role in a nursing home resident’s death, the state would issue a citation to the nursing home. However, an investigation published as a series of articles over the summer showed that, of the 18 deaths to result in the state issuing this type of citation between 2007 and 2009, no one was prosecuted in 15 and only three are considered open investigations.

Governor Steve Beshear ordered a system review after the published investigation. Police and prosecuting a Milwaukee¬†nursing home planning attorney told those conducting the review that coroners receiving notice when nursing home residents die would help close the gap in prosecutions. That result led to Rep. Burch’s bill.

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