Skip to comments.MGH to pull plug on patient: Daughter fights hospital to keep her mother alive
Posted on 02/17/2005 9:58:38 AM PST by Radix
Massachusetts General Hospital said it will remove a 79-year-old woman from life support next week - against the wishes of her daughter - despite a court ruling last March saying the daughter had the right to decide when to pull the plug.
Barbara Howe, 79, formerly of Dorchester, has advanced-stage Lou Gehrig's disease and has been in a hospital bed on a breathing ventilator since 1997. She cannot speak and can barely move her mouth and one remaining eye, but her daughter said she still is mentally alert.
``Her face lights up when you talk to her. I visit her four times a week, and my sister visits here every single day,'' Carol Carvitt said. ``You can see the eye move back and forth, and her mouth starts moving.''
Last year, the MGH doctors wanted to remove Howe from her breathing machine because they said she was suffering and would not want to be kept alive. But Probate and Family Court Judge John Smoot said Carvitt should be allowed to determine the course of Howe's care.
``I evaluate every day what is in her best interest,'' Carvitt said, referring to the incurable and degenerative muscle disease also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
MGH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Britain Nicholson said yesterday he ordered that Howe be removed from life support next Wednesday because her condition has worsened.
``Our hospital's position is Mrs. Howe's condition has continued to deteriorate to the point that it needed to be readdressed.'' He said it was ``in Mrs. Howe's best interest to discontinue life support.''
Nicholson informed Carvitt of the hospital's stance with a phone call and letter earlier this month.
``I'm devastated and I'm angry,'' Carvitt said. ``Devastated because they're trying to terminate my mother's life. And angry because they're violating a court order.''
Smoot declined to issue a temporary restraining order against the hospital last week. But Carvitt's attorney, Gary Zalkin, said the judge left open the door for them to renew their motion for the restraining order after receiving additional information from the hospital.
It's called QUALITY of Life. I know I would NOT want to exist like that.
Once it becomes an issue of "quality" of life, then YOUR life is at risk!
Another way that has been expressed in the past is "life unworthy of life". Sound familiar?
As long as the daughter's paying for it, keep her mother on life support as long as she wants.
I myself, have a living will. I DO NOT advocate that for ANYONE else but for me, I'm NOT going out like that.
Unlike others, I put my money where my mouth is.
It's every person's duty to die when they get old, and can no longer feed the State.
My mother worked in ICU/Trauma for a long time, and said it was always the real crappy families, ie druggie/hooker kids of parents, who would not let their parents go with dignity, but demanded they be kept alive indefinitely.
I do not want to live on a heart & lung machine. Please let me go if I am ever in such a position.
Who is paying for it?
Gehrig's is a terrible way to go...
Then think before you give permission to be put on a respirator--no law or moral value requires one to submit to having one of those things installed. There is an abyss of difference between an active "mercy killing" and a simple refusal to be tortured to death by technology.
Years ago, I had to make a decision to have the plug pulled. I loved that person very much, but the Physician explained to me that it was just a pump blowing air into an empty bag. It was not so callous as that, but until I was put in the position of having to decide, I never thought that I could do it.
That took guts. Sorry you had to go through that. When the "person" is gone, they are gone. After finding my father in his bed, passed away, had to keep my siblings out so THAT picture would not be the last one they remembered. It's not an easy thing and people should think ahead and as well as about their survivors that have to deal with it all.
My paternal Aunt died of Gehrig's disease years ago. She died while struggling to breathe. She fought till the end and I admire her for that.
She's been on a ventilator since 1997, I think. Not many people can afford to pay for that. I'd take a long odds bet she's on Medicaid. Medicare would have run out years ago.
Obviously, she is trying to say, "let me go, you dolt! Can't you see how agitated I am at you? You better be wearing iron panties when you get to Heaven, because I'll be waiting with my belt!"
Another person...how sad
Do you really need to ask?
I guess not.
The good thing about modern medicine is that it keeps people alive longer. The bad thing is that some people shouldn't be alive... but we always did like to play God!
Basic ICU charges are as little as $1500 a day, and can go past $5k PER DAY. Add to that, the meds and equipment supplied, and your bill for this lady has possibly exceeded $3 or $4. That is $3 or 4 for each taxpayer in the US!
God allows us to make these decisions... He already did, but the docs are hanging on!
I agree with you, but the majority here on FR don't.
"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation." -Is12:2
What better promise can there be?
Hey, you're preaching to the choir, so to speak.
I have had two friends die of this disease...both of them chose to go the hospice route when it came near the end...and I think, given the choice between endings and this poor woman, I would choose the way they did...
Because we have the ability to extend life so far past the natural lifespan of people with certain illnesses, we need to realize what we should want happen to us in advance, and put it in writing!
If I have late stage terminal cancer and I have a heart attack, I don't think I want to be rescussitated...but on the other hand, if I am in a condition like Terri Schiavo, I don't want someone starving me to death, thinking he's being merciful...
I am sure we each have our own particular squeamishnesses...put them in writing!
I agree with you, but if a hospital is going to defy a court order, I doubt they will care about a little paper that you signed. That's what this is leading to. Its not going to matter about the living will. They'll just croak you to save money regardless.
The woman's daughter (victim?) was on the radio this morning with her aunt as they disagreed. The matter was discussed at length.
They are not stupid, neither of them. That was very clear.
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