Hospital Fined $71,000 For Man's Restraint Death

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express

LEHIGHTON, PA--On October 4, 2004, Benjamin Wolfe died after being restrained facedown by several employees at Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital.

According to the Allentown (PA) Morning Call, the county coroner listed Wolfe's cause of death as "excited delirium aggravated by a physical struggle". The death certificate does not list a manner of death because state police are still investigating.

The state Department of Health has fined the hospital $71,000 after issuing a 38-page report saying it violated state law in Wolfe's treatment.

The report showed that Wolfe, 29, who had bipolar disorder and asthma, was involuntarily committed to the hospital the day before his death because of outbursts he made toward a family member after he stopped taking his psychiatric medication.

The day he died, Wolfe was "hugging a peer and dancing around the nurses station", refusing to leave the area, when a security guard was called in. Wolfe reportedly lunged at a nurse but was taken to the ground and held down by at least five employees -- one of which worked for the housekeeping department and had no training in restraint techniques.

Wolfe was restrained for 17 minutes -- even after one of the workers told the others to release him and after he had been injected with two different medications.

The report noted that the form of prone restraint was not approved, and that staff failed to try non-physical means to calm Wolfe.

The state investigation also found the hospital failed to report Wolfe's restraint-related death to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Instead, a family member notified the Health Department, prompting the investigation.

"Hospital fined $71,000 in death" (Morning Call)

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November 03, 2005 - News Department | Email this story


Comments (newest comments at bottom)

This is appalling.

Posted by: Gimpy Mumpy on November 5, 2005 02:37 PM

The sudden loss of my brother after just one night in the behavorial health unit at Gnadden Hutten Hospital's Blue Mtn. Campus over a year ago has been a very painful experience. The manner of death has never been determined to this day, even though the state police have closed their investigation after more than a year without a single charge. The coroner, Bruce Nalesnic, never made a formal report. The D.A., Gary Dobias claims the investigation was among the most thorough in Carbon County history, yet could not answer simple questions about the evaluation of questionable findings by the forensic pathologist. The cause of death has been ruled, "excited delirium" though, the findings go on to say, "asphixia cannot be ruled out". Ben was not proscribed to have the drugs administered by injection, only orally. After more than a year, I have more questions than answers about just what happened to my brother on the evening of Oct. 4th 2004, and feel a grevious miscarriage of justice has occured in Carbon County. The Departments of Health and Welfare were stalled from investigation for 2 months waiting for the police to conduct even a preliminary interview with the staff members involved. It is my personal belief, that the economic interests of the hospital, and a bias about the mentally ill have prejudiced this matter from the outset. Ben, was a kind and wonderful brother. A talented musician. His funeral was attended by hundreds of people and he is missed greatly by his family, friends, and community. I can only hope that justice will eventually prevail.


Chris Wolfe
Ben's big brother.

Posted by: Christopher Wolfe on April 1, 2006 05:02 PM

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