WASHINGTON, D.C., March 11, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) A Rwandan immigrant woman and survivor of the horrors of the 1994 genocide who had her feeding tube removed because a U.S. Catholic-affiliated hospital deemed her care too expensive, apparently will not die of starvation and dehydration thanks to a court order and the efforts of her children.
Rachel Nyirahabiyambere, a 58-year-old grandmother and refugee from war-torn Rwanda, had been denied food and water since Feb. 19 after her feeding tube was removed by order of her court-appointed guardian. Now 21 days later and still alive, another court has ordered Rachels feeding tube reinserted at the request of her familys new legal counsel.
Rachels family has sought legal assistance from the Alliance Defense Fund, which has intervened in the case, against Rachels court-appointed guardian, who was appointed at the behest of Georgetown University Hospital.
The New York Times first broke the plight of Rachel Nyirahabiyambere, a Rwandan grandmother, who once had to survive in the jungle in order to escape the genocide and later the violence in the refugee camps. Rachels sons immigrated to the United States as refugees, where they worked their way up from menial jobs to obtain masters degrees.
Rachels sons brought her to the United States, where she found work that gave her health care benefits, but she lost those benefits by leaving her job to follow her oldest son to Virginia and help take care of his grandchildren. Generally, U.S. health insurance is employer-based, and not portable for an individual that switches jobs.
Rachel was thus without insurance when suffered a severely disabling stroke. She was cared for by Georgetown University Hospital without remuneration for eight months, until the hospital convinced a court in December to remove guardianship from the family to a lawyer recommended by the hospitals attorney.
Andrea Sloan took over as Rachels guardian, and removed Rachel to a nursing home in Millersville, Maryland. The Times reported that the hospital then offered to pay for Rachels nursing home care, but had never extended this offer to Rachels family before Sloan took over as guardian.
Sloan then decided to remove Rachels feeding tube on the basis that Rachel was consuming too many health care resources to stay alive.
She explained her reasoning for having the feeding tube removed to the Times in an e-mail: Generically speaking, what gives any one family or person the right to control so many scarce health care resources in a situation where the prognosis is poor, and to the detriment of others who may actually benefit from them?