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Medical Malpractice Suits to Follow Criminal Trial of Nursing Director

April 29, 2011

According to a recently published Chicago Sun Times article, the trial of a former nursing director at the Woodstock Residence nursing center is underway. Prosecutors in the trial against Penny Whitlock, age 62, have alleged that the director took no action when she was warned that a nurse was giving excessive doses of morphine to patients. Instead, the nursing boss nicknamed the nurse, the "Angel of Death" and took no measures to stop her from overmedicating patients with morphine.

Prosecutors in the case against the former nursing director Whitlock have charged her with criminal neglect and obstruction of justice following a lengthy investigation into six suspicious deaths in 2006 that took place at the nursing center while Whitlock served as the director. The bodies of three nursing home patients who died there during that time period were later exhumed as part of the 15-month probe into the suspicious deaths.

Prosecutors in the case allege that despite being the nursing director, Whitlock never tried to stop Marty Himebaugh from allegedly overmedicating patients with morphine at the nursing home even after a patient died from a morphine overdose. Prosecutors contended at the opening of her trial Whitlock showed "cold, callous, indifference to her patients."

Himebaugh, 60, is still is awaiting trial on charges of criminal neglect and improperly dispensing morphine. The current case against Whitlock contends that she allowed Himebaugh to give hefty doses of the powerful drug to control or even hasten the deaths of troublesome patients. Nurses that were employed under Whitlock' directive testified that they had brought up their concerns about patients being given too high of doses of morphine to no avail. Nurse Eleanore LaRocco testified that hours before patient Jean Hannah died on April 8, 2006, she saw Himebaugh come out of Hannah' room carrying a bottle of morphine.

Whitlock' attorney denied that she ever acted improperly or neglected patients and if she is convicted, Whitlock faces up to three years in prison. A Chicago medical malpractice lawyer is preparing to file a lawsuit on behalf of one of the victim' family that died from a morphine overdose under the care of these nurses.

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