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Legal Speak

Point of View

Published April 12, 2012 11:33 AM by Tony DeWitt

From the Digital Journal comes an excellent treatise on how marketing masked as journalism is being aimed at operators of skilled nursing facilities. 

"For Profit Nursing Homes Pose Threat To Residents Well Being."  In this piece of "journalism" the author - unnamed but apparently affiliated with the Law Office of Scott Warmuth - takes a recent study by the University of Southern California and changes the focus of the article from the statistical variances between for-profit and not-for-profit nursing facilities and concludes that nursing facilities operated for profit pose a threat to residents. What does the study actually say?

The study clearly shows a difference in the number and severity of nursing home deficiencies between for-profit and non-profit nursing homes over the time studied. But the authors do not conclude that the populace should rise up and march on their local for-profit facility with pitchforks and torches. They peg the deficiencies to staffing, particularly RN staffing. The authors conclude that more study is needed on the subject. They also said that greater accountability and quality oversight mechanisms would help improve nursing home care, along with effective funding incentives and sanctions for low staffing and poor quality.

Nowhere do the authors conclude that for-profit nursing homes put patients at risk. While the report is sharply critical of the for profit chains, it stops far short of calling them threats to patient safety.

Over the last few years different advocacy groups have taken scientific research studies and selectively manipulated the data to suit their own needs. The data on global warming is nearly irrefutable, but the oil, gas and hydrocarbon industry finds flaws in the studies. They spin the contents. The article reads "while there have been warmer winters on record, this winter was one of the warmest and the trend is clearly toward warmer temperatures."

The spin from the fossil fuel folks: "Scientists admit this was not the warmest winter on record, casting doubt on global warming."

Certainly lawyers are no different than any other group of marketing and public relations professionals in taking literature and using it for their own purposes, but the article is clearly designed to draw persons looking for help with a nursing home malpractice case to the lawyer's website, which is linked into the article. But lawyers have strict rules regarding what can be said in pursuit of cases, and California Rule 1-400(D)(1) states that no solicitation or communication made by an attorney in California for advertising purposes may contain a statement that is untrue. This marketing masked as journalism comes as close as you can to that prohibition.

The key when reading anything online is to consider the bias of the person writing. Just as a nursing school putting out an article on nursing home staffing may have a bias in favor of higher RN recruitment, so too may an attorney rewriting that same piece for marketing purposes. If in doubt, always go to the actual research and read what the authors wrote.

posted by Tony DeWitt

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About this Blog


    A.L. "Tony" DeWitt, RRT, CRT, JD, FAARC
    Occupation: Attorney
    Setting: Jefferson City, Mo.
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