Illinois Nursing Home Accused Of Neglect for Leaving Man to Smolder and Die

Lakeshore Rehabilitation Center in ChicagoChicago, IL- A Chicago nursing home is facing accusations of neglect after one of their patients caught fire. The man’s family says staff at the home failed to react in a timely fashion and their loved one died as a result.

Michael Lewis was staying at the Lakeshore Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center and was nearing the end of his stay when he died. And his sister Lisa Couch blames the care facility for his death.

““He burned to death,” she told CBS Chicago.  “He sustained burns like from mid-thigh up to the eyebrows.”

CBS Chicago obtained video footage of the shocking events surrounding Lewis’s death. In the surveillance video, he can be seen sitting in his wheel chair on an outside patio designated for smokers when he caught fire. It appears as though the lighter in his pocket caught his shirt on fire.

Lewis frantically wheels his chair inside the facility, where staff members scramble to help the man. They use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and wheel the motionless man back outside. It took five minutes after Lewis was wheeled outside before any staff members attempted to give the man oxygen. Several minutes pass before emergency crews arrive, but it was too late, Lewis was already dead.

At no point after Lewis was wheeled outside, still smoldering, did any of the staff members attempt to perform CPR. Lewis died of cardiac arrest.

There are a number of things that the staff at the nursing home did wrong. Firstly, when a person is on fire it is not appropriate to use a fire extinguisher. It is also against regulations. Instead, a coat or blanket should have been used to put out the flames.

After the fire was extinguished, a staff member should have check Lewis’s airways to be sure he was breathing. It only takes moments for smoke to block a person’s airway. They should have also used wet sheets or blankets on Lewis which would have stopped the burn process, a regulator told CBS Chicago.

“The burn process is progressive unless you cool it down,” says Dr. Stanley Zydlo, an emergency response specialist told CBS. “It will continue.”

Time is of the essence when someone is in cardiac arrest and had the staff performed CPR, Lewis might have survived. But no one seen on the video attempted to evaluate his condition or attempt any life-saving measures, until emergency crews arrived.

The care facility has refused to comment on the events surrounding Lewis’s death citing the pending litigation.

Couch was horrified by what happened to her has retained an attorney to sue the facility for neglect.

The staff of long-term care facilities or nursing homes should be adequately trained to handle emergency situations. That’s why it is important to find the right facility. When these staff member cannot handle a critical situation, the facility is liable for a person’s wrongful death or personal injury. With the assistance of a nursing home neglect attorney, victims of abuse or neglect can seek compensation for the negligent parties.