Monday, November 10, 2008

Homicide of the Elderly ?

by Eric C Baxter

To the best of my knowledge, there is no active investigation of my father's death, the manner of which, after 3-1/2 years, remains officially "undetermined". Whether the authorities are even aware of the circumstances surrounding his death is unknown, but I am quite sure there is no official interest in a review; hence, no danger of "interfering". Following my father's death, the Speaker of the Louisiana House moved to convene a legislative study, at which I testified, for the purpose of improving elder protective law. Despite at least one promise, the press did not attend or cover the testimony. Louisiana mandates the reporting of elder abuse, as I had done, the only obvious result of which was to draw official retaliation and deepen my fathers isolation. Although my principle suggestion was to create a civil remedy against elder abuse to provide "due process", at least retaliation is now criminalized (La. RS 14§403.2 D, Acts 2008, No. 181, §1, eff. June 13, 2008). In the absence of any active interest among law enforcement agencies, the legislature, the judiciary or the press but still of the opinion disabled elders should not be thrown to the wolves without a care, I offer the following for discussion:

American communities do not naturally value the lives of the elderly, the disabled or strangers as they do those of their own children and do not equally protect them or lament their loss. Louisiana's community of Natchitoches promotes itself as "as a top retirement town" to attract elders for the revenue they bring. In exchange for their commerce and taxes, the town owes elders something toward the prevention of neglect and predatory exploitation - particularly while elder abuse looms nationally as the "crime of the 21st century".

Yet, without a body of case law establishing a legal standard of the "equal protection" they are due, disabled elders continue to suffer while crimes against them go largely hidden, unpunished and undeterred.

Many crimes against the elderly are perpetrated by purported "caregivers" - although, what actual "care" they may provide is generally unscrutinized and caregivers are rarely held accountable for any harm they cause. Overwhelmingly, investigators and prosecutors dismiss crimes against elders as mere "civil matters" although there is not yet a viable civil action to reliably protect abused elders. Perhaps consulting public opinion would help prosecutors reform their policies to bring equal protection to the elderly and disabled as was necessary in the gradual process of enlightening them about the serious nature of child and spousal abuse.
It is therefore proper to ask: By what standard, if any, do citizens of Natchitoches expect "reasonably careful" paid caregivers to maintain the safety of disabled elders? What constitutes a "gross deviation" below that standard? Without answers to these questions, statutes intended to protect elders have no meaning except as wishful thinking or deception. -ECB

For Discussion (please review here =>>and vote below)

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