Social Work Expert Discusses Failure to Provide Seizure-Prone Patient with Life Saving Supervision


Social Worker Expert WitnessThis autism analysis case involves a male patient in his late 40s who died after suffering a seizure while unattended in bed. The man was on the autism spectrum and had a history of seizures, and had spent several years living in a communal living facility where he enjoyed around-the-clock supervision and care. After living in the home for several years, where he suffered seizures on a number of occasions, he was deemed fit to live on his own, under a plan created by a social worker. He was given Topamax to treat his seizures, but switched to Depakote when it was not improving his condition. Some weeks after the patient began living on his own, his social worker noted that he was suffering from seizures despite the medication and was in need of additional supportive services. The social worker recommended that the patient receive a personal emergency response system, however the patient never received such a system despite the social worker’s repeated recommendations. Eventually, the patient was found dead from asphyxiation in his bed.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your experience in social work, particularly as it relates to the type of facility in this case.

Expert Witness Response E-076075

I have worked in a social work field with people with developmental disabilities for a number of years. I worked as an unlicensed clinical support coordinator with adults with developmental disabilities for a period of five years. I have had the designation of a social worker by degree since that time, when I completed my Masters of Social Work. I hold a full and unencumbered license to practice social work at the Master’s level in the state in which this incident took place. I have served as the Supervisor for the Support Coordination team for Adults with developmental disabilities with my current employer, which remains my present day role. This role includes providing support, training, and clinical guidance to new and experienced bachelor’s level supports coordinators. I have a Master’s degree, Licensure, and more than 5 years experience with the population, so I am therefore considered a Qualified Intellectual Disability Professional (QIDP). In my time working with this population, I have worked with cases that present with an autism diagnosis and a seizure disorder. Some have been able to live independently, while others have needed more supervision and medication management. In the case described above it seems clear that this patient should have received closer monitoring, which could have prevented the fatal lapse in care.

Expert Witness Response E-075624

Expert-ID: E-075624

I spent 12 years working in support roles for individuals with mental health challenges and developmental disabilities. From 2006 until January 2015, I served as a recipient rights advisor, a network services auditor, and a support coordinator. I was responsible for performing investigations and audits of a network of over 300 providers, including compliance reviews of records, procedures, and risk management. I conducted many investigations into neglect and abuse similar to this situation. I’m very familiar with the mental health code in this state, and I am a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker and Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professional. Community living is much more regulated and more restricted than a typical adult foster care home. Based on the details here, this sounds like clear neglect.

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