$2M Award in Pro Wrestler’s Death Exposes Nursing Home Abuse
A $2 million jury award for the death of a former pro wrestler highlights the abuse and neglect of elderly patients in understaffed nursing homes.
George Dahmer, known to fans as Chief White Owl during his 30-year career as a WWWF wrestler, essentially wasted away after spending only two months under shoddy care at a nursing home in Florida.
Dahmer was 72 years old when he entered Lake Worth Manor, now Oasis Health, in February 2008 after suffering from bouts of dementia. Two months later, he had dropped 30 pounds, could not walk or talk, and had ulcer sores through to the bone on both feet and his tailbone. By the time his wife transferred him to a hospital, he was too weak to accept a feeding tube and died in May, as doctors considered amputating his feet.
His wife and children brought a lawsuit against the nursing home for wrongful death.
The trial exposed problems with understaffing and lack of morale by overworked nursing home staff, who failed to monitor Dahmer’s medication, leaving him overmedicated and motionless, which allowed his ulcers to fester, according to the family’s attorney Joseph B. Landy of Lesser Lesser Landy and Smith.
“His body was literally rotting away,” Landy said. “If he had been walking around and moving, he wouldn’t have been spending that amount of time in bed and this never would have happened.”
The corporation that owns the nursing home, Lake Worth Enterprises, said the case was more complex than portrayed and said it will consider an appeal.
Landy said his clients sued to send a message about shoddy care in nursing homes, particularly in states like Florida with a large retirement population.
“The Dahmers are no different than Chief White Owl. They’re fighters. They intended to shed a light on what is happening in nursing homes,” Landy said.
The family’s next fight is to pass stricter laws for nursing homes and harsher penalties for substandard care.
“We are going to name it ‘Chief White Owl’s Law. We are getting an online petition together. We want to know he didn’t die in vain,” said Dahmer’s daughter Debbie.