Aurora hospice sued after woman's body found riddled with maggots

Updated 10/10/2019 6:22 AM

The estate of a woman who died in 2018 at a private Aurora hospice is suing the facility, arguing her emaciated body was found with "paper thin skin" and riddled with maggots and open sores.

The negligence and wrongful-death lawsuit by the administrator of Barbara Kessler's estate was filed in late September in Kane County against The Neighbors Next Door -- billed on its website as a "unique alternative to assisted living" -- and its president and registered nurse, Sheila M. White.


The suit argues Kessler, 78, was a resident at a home owned, operated and maintained by Neighbors Next Door on the 700 block of Gerten Avenue in Aurora when she was found dead on July 31, 2018. Her body, according to the lawsuit, was malnourished, weighing just 71 pounds and "appearing skeleton-like with paper thin skin."

An autopsy performed by Dr. Mitra Kalelkar determined Kessler's cause of death was due to coronary artery disease but determined malnutrition and dehydration were "factors significantly contributing" to her death.

The autopsy report, obtained by the Daily Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request, also noted Kessler's body weighed just 71 pounds, was malnourished, and was "skeleton like with paper thin skin."

The lawsuit also contained a letter from a physician who examined Kessler's records at three other facilities, but noted there were no records from Neighbors Next Door, which he was told "have been destroyed or are unavailable."

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In the letter, the doctor noted Kessler had been neglected, there was evidence medicine had been withheld from her, and she had 14 skin wounds, mostly on her right side, caused by caregiver's failing to move her and clean her after incontinence episodes.

Maggots were growing and living in one of the woman's wounds and also were found in her genital area, according to the doctor's letter.

"These wounds and neglectful care were causally related to increasing pain, accelerating her death and loss of dignity and respect at the end of life," the doctor wrote in the lawsuit exhibit.

White has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing. Reached by phone this week, she denied the allegations before handing the receiver to her husband, who hung up.

White received her license as a registered professional nurse in April 1972, according to the state's Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Her license was renewed in 2018 and runs through May 31, 2020 and she has never been disciplined, according to the department.

Perry Hoag, an attorney for Kessler's estate, did not return phone messages this week.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $50,000, and both sides are due in court Dec. 10.

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