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Ohio nursing home resident dies in smoking-related fire

A male resident of an Ohio nursing home in Oakwood Village died after accidentally setting himself on fire while smoking.

According to the officials on the scene, the man -- whose age was not identified -- was sitting in a motorized wheelchair outside the nursing facility, unattended. He was also on oxygen at the time.

At some point, the man fell to the ground and a passerby saw that the wheelchair itself was in flames. First responders stated that the victim was face down on the pavement when they arrived and wasn't breathing.

Based on evidence at the scene, which included a lighter and a pack of cigarettes, officials have deemed the incident an accident. No criminal charges are being pressed. Officials from the nursing home say that the residents are generally free to move about as they please, which is why the man wasn't being watched. However, a spokesperson from Embassy Healthcare, the nursing home's parent company did state that "Resident care and safety is the highest priority."

That's a hard assertion to swallow when something like this happens. It's difficult to believe that nobody at the nursing facility was aware of the man's smoking habit and that steps weren't taken to ensure that he didn't endanger his own life by smoking while on oxygen.

Ohio has long had a problem with nursing home safety. Just this month, a report surfaced that indicates the Ohio Department of Health has been failing miserably at keeping up with the inspections it is required to do on nursing homes. While the department is responsive to incidents after someone is harmed or reports of immediate danger, that's often "too little, too late" to help victims of nursing home neglect.

If your loved one has fallen victim to injuries caused by nursing home neglect, it's time to find out more about your legal rights. Nursing homes won't take any action to improve the lives of patients until it becomes too expensive not to do so.

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