CRIMINAL NEGLECT OF PATIENTS
Criminal Neglect of Patients can carry harsh punishments depending on the circumstances involved.
What is the legal definition of Battery Domestic Violence?
Battery with Intent to Commit a Crime is defined in NRS 200.485:
- A professional caretaker who fails to provide such service, care or supervision as is reasonable and necessary to maintain the health or safety or a patient is guilty of criminal neglect of a patient if:
- The act or omission is aggravated, reckless or gross;
- The act or omission is such a departure from what would be the conduct of an ordinarily prudent, careful person under the same circumstances that it is contrary to a proper regard for danger to human life or constitutes indifference to the resulting consequences;
- The consequences of the negligent act or omission could have reasonably been foreseen; and
- The danger to human life was not the result of inattention, mistaken judgment or misadventure, but the natural and probable result of an aggravated reckless or grossly negligent act or omission.
- Unless a more severe penalty is prescribed by law for the act or omission which brings about the neglect, a person who commits criminal neglect of a patient:
- If the neglect results in death, is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 20 years.
- If the neglect results in substantial bodily harm, is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.
- If the neglect does not result in death or substantial bodily harm, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
- For the purposes of this section, a patient is not neglected for the sole reason that:
- According to the patient’s desire, the patient is being furnished with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone in accordance with the tenets and practices of a church or religious denomination. Subsection1 does not authorize or require any medical care or treatment over the implied or express objection of such a patient.
- Life-sustaining treatment was withheld or withdrawn in accordance with a valid declaration by the patient or his or her agent pursuant to NRS 162A.790.
- Upon the conviction of a person for a violation of the provisions of subsection 1, the Attorney General shall give notice of the conviction to the licensing boards which:
- Licensed the facility in which the criminal neglect occurred; and
- If applicable, licensed the person so convicted.
- As used in this section:
- “Medical facility” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 449.0151.
- “Patient” means a person who resides or receives health care in a medical facility.
- “Professional caretaker” means a person who:
- Holds a license, registration or permit issued pursuant to title 54 or Chapter 449 of NRS;
- Is employed by, an agent of or under contract to perform services for, a medical facility; and
- Has responsibility to provide care to patients
- The term does not include a person who is not involved in the day-to-day operation or management of a medical facility unless that person has actual knowledge of the criminal neglect of a patient and takes no action to cure such neglect.
So what does that mean?
In order to fully understand the crime of “criminal neglect of patients,” it is important to first know the definition of a few different terms: “medical facility,” “patient,” and “professional caretaker.”
As described in NRS 449.0151, a “medical facility” is:
“Medical facility” includes:
- A surgical center for ambulatory patients;
- An obstetric center;
- An independent center for emergency medical care;
- An agency to provide nursing in the home;
- A facility for intermediate care;
- A facility for skilled nursing;
- A facility for hospice care;
- A hospital;
- A psychiatric hospital;
- A facility for the treatment of irreversible renal disease;
- A rural clinic;
- A nursing pool;
- A facility for modified medical detoxification;
- A facility for refractive surgery;
- A mobile unit; and
- A community triage center.
In other words, the definition of a “medical facility” is exactly what you would expect it to be, any place where medical treatment of any kind is provided.
The definition of a ‘patient’ is even easier: any person who receives medical treatment of any kind at a medical facility.
The definition of a “professional caretaker” is slightly more difficult to define, but the common sense definition is similarly easy to understand. A “professional caretaker” is someone who:
- Holds a license, registration or permit pursuant to Title 54 or Chapter 449 of the NRS. Title 54 relates to “Professions, Occupations and Businesses”. Chapter 449 refers to “Medical Facilities And Other Related Entities”;
- Is in some way employed by a “medical facility”; or
- Is, in some way, responsible for the care of “patients.”
In other words, anyone who provides some sort of medical care or treatment for others.
Okay, so then, what is criminal neglect of patients?
Despite how long the statute is, the definition is really quite simple: a professional caretaker or medical facility must not fail to provide necessary service, care, or supervision of a patient as is reasonably necessary.
The tricky part of this statute is understanding what is considered “reasonably necessary” for medical treatment.
There are basically two parts to understanding “reasonably necessary”:
- Section 1(a.) and 1(b.) are basically two ways of explaining the same thing. Any act or omission that is so far outside what would be considered reasonable by a normally prudent person would be considered “aggravated, reckless, or gross.”
- Section 1(c.) and 1(d.) are also related. If the injury, harm, or danger to human life that results from the aggravated, reckless, or gross conduct is foreseeable, to the average person, because it is the natural and probably result of the conduct, then both subsection (c.) and (d.) are satisfied.
What are the possible penalties?
The penalty for criminal neglect of patients is determined by the patient’s injuries.
If the patient did not die or sustain any substantial bodily harm, then you are likely to be charged with a gross misdemeanor and can be punished by:
- Up to 364 days in jail; and/or
- Possible fines up to $2,000.
However, if the patient did die or sustained substantial bodily harm, then you can be charged with a category B felony and face possible punishment including:
- Between 1 and 6 years in a Nevada State prison; and/or
- Possible fines up to $5,000.
Please Note: If you are convicted of Criminal Neglect of Patients, then the Attorney General will notify the necessary licensing boards which will almost certainly cause you to forfeit your license, possibly for life.
Please Also Note: You may also face medical malpractice charges. Medical Malpractice charges are not criminal charges, they are civil charges. As such, they require a lower burden of proof (preponderance of the evidence) than criminal charges (beyond a reasonable doubt).
Are there any Defenses?
Yes, of course there are. In fact, Criminal Neglect of Patients is an extremely vague and difficult to prove charge. Some of the possible defenses include:
- Patient’s Religion – Patients have the right to forego medical treatment if the medical treatment is against their religion. There can be no neglect if the accused was simply abiding by the religious beliefs of the patient.
- Patient’s Wishes/Living Will – If the patient has expressed his or her desire to not be treated during end-of-life situations, whether through a living will or some other verifiable means, then there was no neglect. One example of such a situation is where the patient has a “DNR” (Do Not Resuscitate) form in their medical file. As with religious reasons, there can be no neglect if the accused was simply abiding by the patient’s reasonable wishes.
- Honest Mistake/Reasonable Action – As noted above, Criminal Neglect requires conduct that is so far outside the scope of what a reasonable person would do as to be considered “aggravated, reckless, or gross.” The Court will not punish someone for making a mistake in judgment. If the accused can show that their conduct was in any way reasonable, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
- Lack of Evidence – As with any crime, the prosecution bears the burden of proving every element of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is not enough evidence to uphold this high level of proof, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
What should I do if I’ve been charged with Attempted Murder by Poison?
As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.