Last Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld the right of people with disabilities, older adults, and their families to sue when federally sponsored programs like Medicaid are not administered properly.
The 7-2 decision, was Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s first significant majority opinion. It upheld a lower court ruling that Gorgi Talevski’s daughter may sue an Indiana healthcare system.
Gorgi Talevski was a master carpenter from Macedonia who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. He developed dementia and, by 2016, required 24-hour care that his wife and daughters were unable to provide. As a result, he was taken to a local nursing home.
According to the family’s lawsuit, the nursing home medicated Talevski unnecessarily. They considered this to be “chemical restraint.” Chemical restraint is the use of drugs to keep people from reacting in ways that are harmful to themselves or others, including medical professionals. When used to subdue an agitated patient and not for direct therapeutic purposes, the administration of a medicine is considered a chemical restraint.
Antipsychotics and benzodiazepines are the most frequently used kinds of medications as chemical restraints. These are strong and fast-acting sedatives. Mood stabilizers and antidepressants are also utilized for this purpose.
Health & Hospital, which operates dozens of nursing homes around the state, has been fighting the lawsuit since it was filed in federal Northern District of Indiana court in 2019. The agency won a dismissal there, but after Talevski’s family appealed, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that they did have the right to sue. The ruling implies that Talevski’s surviving family can proceed with their claim.
The impacts of the case go far beyond a single lawsuit. The majority of the court also rejected the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County’s claim that consumers cannot sue government programs that violate government spending. If the court had accepted its position, it would have removed a fundamental enforcement mechanism from a number of federal programs.
Disabled people deserve to live free from abuse. All people with disabilities should be able to get the help they need to be able to live their lives to the fullest. Quality services are essential to ensuring that disabled people are healthy and comfortable.
Gans, Jared. “Supreme Court Upholds Right to Sue Public Nursing Homes.” The Hill, 8 June 2023, thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/4040754-supreme-court-upholds-right-to-sue-public-nursing-homes/.
Luterman, Sara. “Disability and Aging Advocates Celebrate Supreme Court’s Talevski Decision.” The 19th, 8 June 2023, 19thnews.org/2023/06/talevski-supreme-court-decision/.
Potter, Mike. “Supreme Court to Hear Indiana Civil Rights Case.” WTHR, 18 Oct. 2022, http://www.wthr.com/article/news/local/indiana-court-case-supreme-court-health-and-hospital-corporation-gorgi-talevski/531-71416b97-bfe8-4e06-b960-a529bdec18f9.
“What Is an Example of Chemical Restraint? Medication List.” Edited by Charles Patrick Davis, MedicineNet, 24 Oct. 2022, http://www.medicinenet.com/what_is_an_example_of_chemical_restraint/article.htm.