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Family Member Who Wanted Woman Euthanized Produces a Physicians Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment which Only Appeared in the Last Minute Before Woman was to be Transferred to a Facility Willing to Treat.
Although Life Legal attorneys were successful in obtaining a temporary court order, which prohibited the hospital from withdrawing life support, the court order was only in effect for 72 hours. During that time, the family member who sought to withdraw the ventilator produced a POLST (Physician’s Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment), allegedly signed by the patient, requesting only “comfort care.” Tragically, many people are not aware that comfort care does not include the provision of ventilator support—even if needed to sustain life. While we questioned the validity of the document, the judge held that the POLST was valid and thus gave the hospital the authority to remove the ventilator—which they promptly did, over the objection of the woman’s daughter and grandchildren. This case is especially tragic because the patient had shown significant signs of improvement and was being considered for transfer to a lower-level facility where she could be safely weaned from her ventilator.
Life Legal urges people to examine any advance directive, POLST, power of attorney, or other documents giving instructions on medical care and treatment in the event of a serious injury or illness. We encourage people to select full care, as the default in many cases is rapid withdrawal of life-sustaining care.
In another similar case at the same hospital, Life Legal was able to get a court order that will remain in place for several more weeks until the court can appoint a permanent conservator. Fortunately, the patient has been transferred out of the hospital that scheduled the removal of life support and is in a long-term care facility.
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