December 3, 2022

Volume XII, Number 337


December 02, 2022

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

December 01, 2022

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

November 30, 2022

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

Illinois Nursing Complaint Anonymity Bill Threatens Patients’ Rights

When nursing abuse victims fear for their safety due to threats and repeated abuse; their anonymity can be the difference between reporting their plight to authorities and choosing to suffer in silence. Illinois has indicated in the past that it takes abuse very seriously and is one of the states in the country that still allows unlimited damage limits for those who sue because of mistreatment. For profit nursing corporations are seeking to insulate themselves by backing an Illinois bill that would remove the ability of those who complain to remain anonymous.

Ways the Bill Would Benefit Large Nursing Care Companies

Gavel, MoneyRepublican lawmakers are overwhelmingly in support of the nursing industry backed bill, which would require anyone who complains about nursing concerns to provide contact information. They would also be presented with a warning that they could be fined for submitting false complaints or deceptive claims. Considering all of the disadvantages for complainants, it is important also to understand the advantages that nursing homes would have if this measure ever became law.

  • The measure would help nursing companies address complaints more efficiently and reduce the costs of doing so.

  • If put into law, the bill could reduce the number of complaints filed by up to 20%. One in five complaints is filed anonymously.

  • The law could allow nursing facilities to pursue legal action against anyone accused of filing a false claim of abuse or neglect.

  • Patients and families may be less likely to complain out of fear that providing their information could disqualify the patient from receiving care. The process of relocating a patient from one care facility to another can be financially and emotionally draining for the victim and the family.

Why the Measure Attacks the Rights of Residents

Over the last fifteen years, the nursing care industry has been flooded with for-profit corporations, access to government funding has plummeted due to draconian budget cuts and the needs of patients across the nation have been systemically ignored. It is our belief that the right of patients to lodge complaints and take legal action against greedy and predatory nursing homes is one of the most critical bastions remaining to defend their rights and interests.

If this bill became law, the ways it would impact nursing abuse victims include the following.

  • Even though lawmakers claim the information wouldn’t be shared with the offending facility, victims would be more hesitant to file reports of abuse due to the ambiguous wording used when collecting their information.

  • The threat of fines and legal action could deter genuine claims. Those filing false claims could simply provide false contact information, undermining one of the most important concerns supporters of the bill have expressed while increasing the chances that victims go without reprieve.

  • Systemic abuse may go unnoticed due to the receipt of fewer reports. Individual reports are more likely to be addressed through civil action while widespread abuse is noticed by the authorities when numerous reports reveal trends of neglect or abuse. Anonymous reports help government agencies detect these concerns more quickly and deterring complaints could have an impact.

  • The law could set a catastrophic precedent which would curb the abilities of anyone seeking help due to abuse to be heard. Every abuse hotline run by the state allows callers to remain anonymous and forcing seniors to provide contact information would deny seniors the same rights granted to child abuse victims, domestic violence abuse victims and emergency service callers. Such a move could eventually result in the erosion of those groups’ rights as well.

  • Data from other states supports current policy. Pennsylvania reinstated its anonymous nursing abuse reporting system and even provided language on its website that encouraged anonymous reports. The result was an increase in reports of over one third, revealing just how hesitant many victims are to file reports when they must be named.

Most of the proponents of the bill are tied in some way to the nursing care industry while the primary objections are coming from organizations that advocate for the rights and interests of patients. Among those who vehemently oppose the measure are AARP Illinois, the Assisted Living Directory, the Illinois Department on Aging and Jamie Freschi, who is the long-term care ombudsman for Illinois. When such strong opposition is voiced from all of the organizations that have patient rights at heart, it is easy to see who would truly benefit from the new law.

Copyright © 2022, Rosenfeld Injury LawyersNational Law Review, Volume VI, Number 244

About this Author

Jonathan Rosenfeld, Personal Injury Lawyer, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers

I’m an Illinois lawyer with a nationwide practice who represents members of our society who have been seriously injured or killed due to the irresponsible acts of an individual or company. The injured have the same rights as everyone else — to be treated with compassion and respect— but their vulnerability means they need special protection and representation against those who injure, neglect or abuse them. This is my life’s work.

I recognize that an injured person has one opportunity to get the compensation that the law allows. I am fully dedicated and mindful of this...