Saturday, January 14, 2012

Elder Belle's Blessing: Mike Freeman and Warren Limmer

(Photo by Patrice Carlton and published at National Geographic.)

This award is given from time to time to those individuals or groups who go out of their way to enhance the lives and interests of the elders. The winners in this edition have dedicated themselves to changing the law in the state of Minnesota. At present, elder neglect, even when it results in serious injury or death, is a misdemeanor, which means the perpetrators get a slap on the wrist and a small fine. Freeman and Warren want to make it a felony.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Caregivers who intentionally neglect the elderly or other vulnerable adults could face felony prosecution for the first time in Minnesota under a legislative proposal unveiled Thursday that would close what proponents say is a gaping hole in state law.

Prosecutors say current misdemeanor penalties don't allow them to properly punish violators, even in extreme cases where months of horrendous treatment ends in serious harm or death.

The paper examined about 50 cases since 2004 where someone was convicted of misdemeanor neglect, including six that resulted in death. That included a mother in Bloomington who died after she was left in squalid conditions in a cold, darkened bedroom by her adult son, who paid a $50 fine and got a year of probation.

"Does this make me sick? You're damn right it does," said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, a DFLer who is among those spearheading the effort. "Every one of God's vulnerable adults deserves better, and we're going to do something about it." ...

The bill's chief Senate sponsor, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said the legislation is a reasonable proposal that targets the most extreme cases. Limmer, chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, said that with a wave of baby boomers set to retire, it's important to confront abuse and neglect.

It's always been important to confront abuse and neglect, and these two gentlemen, who are from opposing parties, by the way, have joined together to stiffen the penalties to a more appropriate level. What is so deplorable is that getting an reasonable bill through is going to be difficult. In the past, such bills failed because of pressure from some interest groups:

It remains uncertain whether the proposal, outlined by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, prosecutors and Gov. Mark Dayton's administration, will face opposition from nursing homes, hospitals and others in the care industry. For years, an influential group in the industry has blocked efforts at the Capitol to criminalize neglect.

If you are a Minnesota resident, please put some pressure on your state legislators to pass this bill. It's needed and needed badly to protect the elders from predators and negligent health care providers.

Kudos to Freeman and Warren for standing up for us.

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