J. Marshall Hughes
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J. Marshall Hughes
If legislation passes that would require nursing home deaths to be reported to county coroner offices, those coroners would need proper funding to carry out examinations, Kentucky personal injury attorney J. Marshall Hughes says.

A recently issued report on the state of autopsies in the U.S. highlights the need to require adequate funding for autopsies of Kentucky nursing home deaths, Bowling Green personal injury lawyer J. Marshall Hughes said this week.

"It's not enough to require that nursing home deaths be reported to the proper officials, which is what is currently being proposed in our legislature," Hughes said. "If we are going to do this right in Kentucky, we need to make sure those officials have the proper funding to conduct autopsies that are thorough and complete."

Hughes is a co-founding attorney of Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers, a personal injury law firm that represents Kentucky nursing home abuse and neglect victims and their families in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.

He has endorsed a bill currently pending in the Kentucky General Assembly, House Bill 69, which would require a designated staff member at long-term care facilities and hospices to report all deaths to the county coroner within 24 hours. Coroners, in turn, would be required to involve police or prosecutors if they suspect mistreatment played a role in the death.

Currently, state law does not require nursing homes to report most deaths to coroners, and coroners are rarely called, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported last summer in a series of stories that discovered flaws in the system used to investigate nursing home neglect and abuse.

Hughes spoke this week in reaction to an investigative report issued by National Public Radio, PBS Frontline and ProPublica. The report revealed a trend across the country in which "underfunded and understaffed" medical examiner and coroner offices are being forced to forgo autopsies of the elderly.

Because these autopsies are not being performed, "gray homicides" may be occurring without investigation or prosecution, the report states.

"When questions arise about the death of an elderly citizen who has been left in the care of a nursing home or hospice, families deserve answers," Hughes said. "But if we require nursing homes to report elderly deaths to coroners, and those coroners lack the resources to perform their work, then it's likely that those questions are still going to be left unanswered.

"At Hughes & Coleman, we believe that our state owes a duty to the families of elderly citizens to investigate and determine whether their loved one's life was unjustly shortened or taken away from them," Hughes said, "and we'll continue to stand up for the rights of the elderly and their families."

About Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers

Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers, with Kentucky offices in Bowling Green and Louisville, is dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of nursing home abuse and neglect victims, as well as the families who care deeply about their elderly loved ones. Lawyers J. Marshall Hughes and Lee Coleman are accomplished injury attorneys and advocates for people who have suffered from nursing home neglect and abuse, as well as auto accidents, brain injury, drug injury, defective products, environmental dangers, fire and burn injury, insurance disputes, motorcycle accidents, premises liability, Social Security disability, stock fraud, truck accident injury, workers' compensation and wrongful death. For more information contact Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers at (800) 489-6000 or use the firm's online contact form.