Phoenix/ Politics & Govt
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Published on May 21, 2024
Arizona AG Kris Mayes Sues to Overturn Secrecy Clauses in Long-Term Care, Citing Illegal Obstruction of Protecting AdultsSource: Arizona Attorney General's Office

In a bold move against health care secrecy, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes has taken legal action to strike down a non-disclosure provision muzzling the family of a deceased man neglected at a long-term care facility. Mayes contends that such secrecy clauses are not just a breach of Arizona law, but they also obstruct efforts to shield vulnerable adults from maltreatment.

"Secrecy clauses like those imposed on this victim's family are not only illegal, but they also block me from doing my job of protecting vulnerable adults," Mayes declared, emphasizing the court's responsibility to dismiss these clauses. According to the Arizona Attorney General's Office, a lawsuit has been filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, scrutinizing conditions under which the late Robert Knight, a patient with advanced dementia, endured alleged mistreatment at Sun West Choice Health & Rehab until his death from a grim assemblage of complications.

The nub of the lawsuit alleges that the care staff at the facility failed to adequately turn and care for Mr. Knight, with records showing hundreds of missed opportunities to prevent his deteriorating condition. The Knight family was stifled from discussing details of the ensuing arbitration by a comprehensive gag rule, included in the signed arbitrate agreement, that forbade the revelation of "the existence and subject of the arbitration," as per the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

Mayes' legal challenge has broader implications beyond the Knight's distress, aiming at The Ensign Group, Inc., an operator of dozens of Arizona facilities that collectively host more than 5,000 beds. By targeting the company's contractual confidentiality provisions, Mayes hopes to nullify all such secret arbitrations, which would serve to prevent transparency about abuses in care facilities. "When families are forced to keep silent about abuse and neglect because of illegal arbitration agreements, the system cannot work as intended," he emphasized, as reported by the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

This is not the first endeavor by the Attorney General to dismantle suppressive secrecy clauses, with repeated interventions that signal a commitment to uphold the legislative will for clarity and safeguarding of vulnerable adults. Representative of a broader campaign to purge underhand dealings in the health sector, the efforts are a testament to the unwavering stance of the Attorney General’s office, led by Mayes, against practices that veil the realities experienced by the most helpless in society. Assistant Attorney General Shane Ham is managing the case, with court filings available for public perusal.