Kane County Coroner Rob Russell announced Friday his staff will begin random spot checks of hospice deaths. The initiative is a change from what he said during his election campaign.
It was Russell's Democratic opponent, Tao Martinez, who brought up the issue of investigating hospice deaths during the campaign. Martinez said deaths that may be attributable to negligence and abuse fall through the cracks because the coroner's office automatically assumes nothing suspicious occurs when a hospice patient dies.
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In response, Russell said the idea of investigating hospice deaths would be an inefficient use of the coroner's office and hospice nurses should be trusted to report anything suspicious.
But in his first report to the county board since becoming coroner, Russell changed his mind. Russell said coroner's staff would do random checks of hospice deaths with the idea of checking on each hospice provider in the county at least once.
"I do think it's important because there have been certain questions raised about certain hospice procedures," Russell said.
In an interview after his announcement, Russell said he believes hospice deaths that involve neglect or abuse are rare. However, the random checks are worth are try to protect the county's hospice patients from poor treatment and the coroner's office from any accusations about dereliction of duty.
"I think this will silence the critics," Russell said.
Russell also announced the coroner's office will resume death inquests. There has not been a death inquest in Kane County for more than two years. Russell said he believes that's because the law does not mandate inquests and former Coroner Chuck West was under intense legal scrutiny and in failing health. The first inquest will be in January.