Nurse Charged With Failing To Administer Morphine To Dying Patient At Rochester Nursing Home

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that Pearl Banks, a licensed practical nurse at the Nor Loch Manor Nursing Home in Rochester, has been charged with unlawfully withholding pain management medication from a dying 93-year-old female patient on two consecutive nights, and then falsifying her chart to cover up her neglect. At various times during the two shifts, Banks was observed sleeping by aides.

Appearing for arraignment in Rochester City Court before Judge Melchor Castro, Banks was charged with one count of Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person, two counts of Falsifying Business Records in the Second Degree, and three counts of Wilful Violation of Health Laws. If convicted, she faces up to one year in prison.

"The pain that this elderly woman needlessly suffered because of the neglect of a health care professional was only compounded by the defendant's attempt to then conceal her wrongdoing," said Spitzer. "It is obvious, based on her actions, that the defendant should never work again with patients in a health care setting."

According to prosecutors, the patient, who suffers from diabetes, kidney dysfunction, heart disease, dementia, and needed assistance with all her daily activities, entered the facility in August 2000 for hospice care. For her comfort and pain management, her physician ordered that morphine be administered by oral injection every two hours.

It is alleged that, while on duty as the floor nurse between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. on September 23-24, 2000, Banks failed to administer morphine to the patient on eight separate occasions, although the patient was scheduled to receive the pain medication every two hours beginning at 12:00 a.m. Furthermore, at 6:30 a.m. on September 23, Banks tried to pour morphine from a cup into the patient's mouth, even though the patient was ordered to receive the medication by oral injection from a plastic syringe. Most of this medication poured down the patient's chin. Finally, in order to conceal her crimes, Banks falsely indicated in the patient's chart that she had administered the morphine.

Spitzer thanked the State Health Department for referring the matter to his office. He also thanked the staff and administration of the facility for their assistance and cooperation during the investigation.

Banks, 59, of Morning Star Drive in Rochester, has been a licensed practical nurse since 1973, and worked at the Nor Loch Manor Nursing Home, located at 1140 Norton Street, also in Rochester, from October 1999 until her termination shortly after the incident. The Attorney General's Office has referred the matter to the State Education Department's Office of the Professions for a review of Banks' nursing license.

Special Assistant Attorney General Timothy McFarland, of the Rochester Regional Office of the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, is prosecuting the case. All cases are handled under the direct supervision of Deputy Attorney General Jos? Maldonado.

The charges against Banks are accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.