“If this f— would just die…”
Those are not the words you’d expect to hear coming out of the mouth of a hospice CEO responsible for the care of hundreds of sick and elderly patients.
According to an FBI warrant for the arrest of Novus Health Services CEO Brad Harris, the 34-year-old hospice exec spoke frequently about prematurely ending his patients’ lives. In at least 3 cases, he actually called for their executions.
According to the Novus website, the company’s mantra is “Focus on Living,” and its mission is to “redefine hospice and palliative care.” For Mr. Harris, redefining care meant ordering his staff to kill patients by increasing their medication by 4 times the prescribed dosage.
The FBI alleges that Mr. Harris sent text messages to his nurses directing them to administer lethal overdoses. In some cases, his execution orders were less specific. He texted one nurses the command, “You need to make this patient go bye-bye.”
Mr. Harris was particularly bothered by patients that he felt had overstayed their welcome. Speaking with other health execs over lunch, he is alleged to have said that he wished he could “find patients who would die within 24 hours.”
Some luckier patients were simply sent home. “If a patient was on hospice care for too long, Harris would direct the patient be moved back to home health, irrespective of whether the patient needed continued hospice care,” reported the FBI.
These measures were cost-cutting for Mr. Harris’ company. Medicare and Medicaid cover hospice care up to a limit, based on the average length of stay. If a patient remains in the facility for longer than average, any additional costs fall on the facility.
This means that hospice facilities are incentivized to seek out patients that are not expected to live much longer. Mr. Harris just took that logic a step further.
At least one nurse ignored Mr. Harris’ calls for a lethal overdose, and resigned shortly after. It remains unclear if his other execution orders were successful.
One would hope that the field of hospice and palliative care attracts only the most sensitive and humane individuals, but this is not the case. Hospice care is big business, and year after year we hear stories of vulnerable sick and elderly patients being abused by their caregivers.
Clearly, Mr. Harris was a problem. But so is a system that punishes facilities when their patients live longer than expected. As long as short patient stays are incentivized, hospice care will continue to attract monsters like Mr. Harris.
Sources: Bult, Laura, “Homicidal hospice CEO in Texas ordered nurses to execute patients by overdosing medication in cruel cost-saving plan: FBI,” New York Daily News 31 March 2016.
Daly, Michael, “FBI: Texas Hospice Boss Texted Nurses Execution Orders for Patients,” The Daily Beast, 30 March 2016.