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Nursing Home Resident ‘Eaten Alive’ By Scabies Until Her Death

Photo from the Zeni Family

A 93-year-old resident at a Georgia nursing home died from a scabies infection in 2015, and is believed to have been eaten alive for months or even years.

Rebecca Zeni’s family filed a lawsuit against Pruitt Health, which runs the facility, USA Today reports. The autopsy on Zeni stated that the cause of death was “septicemia due to crusted scabies.” State health officials were reportedly told that there was a scabies outbreak at the nursing home many times, but they failed to inspect the facility at LaFayette.

A forensic pathologist on the case estimates that millions of parasites essentially ate away at Zeni over the course of several months or years.

According to Zeni’s family, their mother lived the American Dream as a naval yard worker during World War II, and later as a New York City model then as an employee at a television station in Chicago. Zeni’s daughter said that she placed her mother at the Shepherd Hills Nursing Home in 2010, where records showed that she had dementia.

Mike Prieto, one of the two family lawyers, said,

I don’t understand how you can allow a human being to suffer needlessly.

Stephen Chance, the other lawyer, claims that nursing staff were told not to touch Zeni’s hand. He said, “There was a conversation at this nursing home with a healthcare provider about being careful about touching Ms. Zeni’s hand for fear that it might fall off her body.”

Scabies is painful, but is treatable. The skin condition is caused by mites that burrow into the epidermis, laying eggs and surviving off a host body. Photos of Zeni before her death shows her skin flaking off and one of her hands blackened.

Dr. Kris Sperry, former chief medical examiner at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, reviewed the autopsy report and concluded, “This is one of the most horrendous things I’ve ever seen in my career as a forensic pathologist.” He added, “Having seen what I’ve seen with Ms. Zeni, I think that is frankly a good characterization. I would seriously consider calling this a homicide by neglect.”

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