To prove the warm affection I ‘ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome — will you please to take a slice?”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind Sir, that cannot be,
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue —
Thinking only of her crested head — poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour — but she ne’er came out again!
And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.
The Spider and the Fly
You probably know that a new law came into effect requiring facilities under certain circumstances to report deaths to the Attorney General’s Office. Here are the circumstances as quoted from the Attorney General’s website:
- when a person dies within 24 hours after admission to a hospital or institution or in prison or in jail;
- when a person is killed, or from any cause, dies an unnatural death, except under sentence of the law, or dies in the absence of one or more good witnesses;
- when the body of a person is found, the cause or circumstances of death are unknown, whether the body is identified or not;
- when the circumstances of the death of any person are such as to lead to suspicion that he/she came to his/her death by unlawful means;
- when the person commits suicide, or the circumstances of his/her death are such as to lead to suspicion that he/she committed suicide;
- when a person dies without having been attended by a duly licensed and practicing physician, and the local health officer or registrar required to report the cause of death under section 193.005, Health and Safety Code, does not know the cause of death;
- when the person is a child who is younger than six years of age and the death is reported under Chapter 264, Family Code; and
- when a person dies who has been attended immediately preceding his/her death by a duly licensed and practicing physician or physicians, and such physician or physicians are not certain as to the cause of death and are unable to certify with certainty the cause of death as required by section 193.004, Health and Safety Code.
If a death occurs in a facility pursuant to Art. 49.04 and an attending physician is able to certify the cause of death, there is not a requirement that the facility report the death to the Justice of the Peace and consequently to the Office of the Attorney General; nor must they conduct and submit a report containing facts relevant to the death. (this is from the AG website)
It is extremely important that you understand that not every death is reportable. If you report deaths that are not reportable, you will bring about unnecessary and possibly unpleasant scrutiny by investigators in the Attorney General’s office. So, it may be advisable to contact an attorney before reporting a death.
I had a recent conversation with one of those Attorney General investigators after a facility unnecessarily reported a death. Did he care that the resident had an attending physician who certified a natural cause of death? Nope. Once he had it, just like the spider in Mary Howitt’s poem, he wasn’t letting go. He wants the facility’s documents—even thought TDHS already investigated and found no deficient practice.
When someone appears to die of something other than illness, before reporting the death, check with the attending physician and see if there is a certification of the cause of death. If the attending physician cannot certify the cause—then report the death to the Attorney General.
Protect yourself against unwarranted and intrusive scrutiny.
All information in this article is informational only and is not legal advice. Should you have any questions or a situation requiring advice, please contact an attorney.
Copyright 2004 by Garlo Ward, P.C., all rights reserved
Austin, Texas 78752-3714 USA