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Elderly Abuse Is A Very Real IssueA

July 13, 2009

When Caregivers Harm: Problem Nurses Stay on the Job as Patients Suffer

California's registered nursing board can take years to act on complaints. Spencer Sullivan, pictured above, received too many painkillers after a neck surgery and wasn't adequately monitored, according to nursing board records. However, the board didn't revoke the license of the nurse held responsible until six years later. Click to read more about Sullivan and view an audio slideshow.(Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)


Nurse Owen Jay Murphy Jr. twisted the jaw of one patient until he screamed.

He picked up another one – an elderly, frail man – by the shoulders, slammed him against a mattress and barked, “I said, ‘Stay in bed.’ “

He ignored the alarms on vital-sign monitors in the emergency room, shouted at co-workers and once hurled a thirsty patient’s water jug against the wall, yelling, “How do you like your water now?” according to state records.

Murphy’s fellow nurses at Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center finally pleaded with their bosses for help. “They were afraid of him,” a hospital spokesman said.

Under pressure, Murphy resigned in May 2005. Within days, Kaiser alerted California’s Board of Registered Nursing [2]: This nurse is dangerous.

But the board didn’t stop Murphy from working elsewhere, nor did it take steps over the next two years to warn potential employers of the complaints against him. In the meantime, Murphy was accused of assaulting patients at two nearby hospitals, leading to convictions for battery and inflicting pain, board and court records show.

Even Murphy, who has since taken classes to curb his anger, was surprised the board didn’t step in earlier.

Read on…

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