Nurse charged with killing patient

September 8, 2008 7:03:25 PM PDT
A nurse was charged with first-degree murder Monday for allegedly killing a terminally ill heart patient with a paralyzing drug last year. But her lawyer says Lorie Hentges "is guilty of nothing other than holding the hand of a dying man while his regular nurse ate lunch."

A grand jury indicted Hentges, 39, in connection with the April 2007 death of Alvin Flamenbaum, 72, at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Flamenbaum was diagnosed with congestive heart failure the previous month. He was being moved to a rehabilitation center on April 12, 2007, when he began complaining of shortness of breath and other symptoms. While en route to the hospital, he stopped breathing.

He was placed on a respirator, and his family decided to withdraw lifesaving measures when his condition was diagnosed as terminal.

But after being taken off the respirator, Flamenbaum started breathing on his own, County Prosecutor Luis Valentin said Monday.

On April 14, a nurse who was primarily responsible for Flamenbaum's care returned from a lunch break to find Hentges in Flamenbaum's room. Shortly afterward, his vital signs worsened and he died.

An autopsy listed the cause of death as the acute effects of an unprescribed paralytic drug, and the case was classified as a homicide.

Valentin said Hentges is not suspected in any other patient deaths, but an investigation of her activities is continuing.

She surrendered to authorities Monday and was freed on $250,000 bail.

Her lawyer, Alton D. Kenney, said the drug she is alleged to have given Flamenbaum was readily available throughout the hospital and the rehab facility.

"My client has no motive, and no reason at all to have committed this offense," Kenney said.

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