A hospital utilization committee determined the woman would be transferred from a local hospital to hospice, an attorney in the case told LifeSiteNews, and this was done at a point in time when it was medically impossible to determine the level to which she could recover.
Utilization review (UR), or utilization management (UM), is a healthcare concept intended to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and to control the length of stay for inpatients for the purpose of managing cost.
The Philadelphia patient, a woman named Tabetha, showed alertness and was presented as a candidate for rehabilitation before her admission to hospice, according to one doctor.
What’s more, her boyfriend, John Rowan, said, the first day she was in hospice a nurse told him she asked for him. Tabetha was also able to recognize and greet him, she was thanking the nurses for things they did for her and she asked for food numerous times while there.
Rowan gave her juice on a sponge with a nurse’s permission, and he filmed her several times conversing and asking for food.
“I thought, she’s hungry and she wants to eat,” Rowan said. “Around day 9 she said, “Sausage biscuits, I really love those.”
Tabetha experienced cardiac arrest in mid-April and was in intensive care for about three weeks before being moved to a step-down unit, remaining there roughly another three weeks before the transfer to hospice.
While she’d had varying degrees of responsiveness and physical ability since her collapse, Rowan said, her eyes were open all along and she was never in a coma.
Tabetha’s CAT scans and an EEG early on looked good and doctors were initially optimistic, he said, though an MRI later indicated potential issues.
Then things changed
The prognosis then changed from positive to “hopeless” around the time she was moved out of ICU to the step-down floor, he recounted, with the subject of hospice also raised then.
And despite a doctor in the step-down unit having reported that Tabetha was rehab-able; answering questions and tracking people in the room with her eyes, and even though he said she needed more time and called off the scheduled visit from the hospice representative, she was put into hospice.
This didn’t add up, said Rowan, as Tabetha had been smiling and winking at him, squeezing his hand when he asked.
Rowan began asking questions upon learning Tabetha wasn’t being fed in the hospice, and in addition to his being unsuccessful in getting her nutrition, he was eventually banned from the hospice.
Rowan called right to life organizations for help and connected with Bobby Schindler at the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network and also the Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF), who put him in touch with a lawyer from their network.
After a June 8 emergency court hearing, Tabetha was removed from hospice on June 11. She was eventually given nutrition after being deprived of it for nearly two weeks.
A guardian ad litem was appointed, and Tabetha is back in the hospital in a rehab unit, but her recovery is far from over. Her case remains in progress, and many questions persist. Another hearing is scheduled for August 9.
How did this happen?
Rowan told LifeSiteNews he couldn’t see how anyone could have thought Tabetha was in a near-death state, or act to end her life, and watching her be deprived of nutrition was almost more than he could bear.
“I thought, I have to do something,” Rowan recalled, “This person who I love dearly was being killed.”
“Was this capricious or protocol?” he wants to know. “Is this common practice or what?”
A lessening respect for the health of the elderly and otherwise medically vulnerable is a sign of the times in healthcare, with their care having become more expensive, said William Bonner, the initial LLDF attorney on the case.
Bonner said Tabetha’s case emphasizes the crucial need to have advance directive and power of attorney paperwork in order, but it also demonstrates the necessity for medically vulnerable individuals to be availed of medical advocacy whenever possible to ensure medical professionals are acting in their best interest.
Shocking, but not an isolated case
LLDF Executive Director Alexandra Snyder told LifeSiteNews that Tabetha’s story is really compelling and outrageous.
While cases of patients being deprived of nutrition are nothing new, this is the first Snyder has seen where it was happening to someone able to speak and request to be fed.
“It’s appalling,” Snyder told LifeSiteNews. “It is barbaric. People need to know that this sort of thing is going on.”
“I’ve never seen such an egregious thing,” she continued. “Never something this egregious, when the person is actually asking for food.”
Schindler, an advocate for the medically vulnerable after losing his sister Terri to intentional dehydration in 2005, remains in touch and ready to offer Rowan support.
Schindler also told LifeSiteNews these sorts of things happen all the time, but like Snyder, he was taken aback by how flagrant it was in Tabetha’s case.
“It’s quite remarkable the whole situation,” Schindler said. “I couldn’t quite believe what he (Rowan) was telling me, but it turns out it was pretty accurate.”
“Obviously, she was no longer in the condition where she was unresponsive, yet they continued to deprive her of nutrition,” he continued. “To me, it’s hard to understand.”
People need to know
Schindler echoed Snyder in saying the case is another wake-up call in the issue of dignity for the medically vulnerable.
“It’s a shame it’s turned into what it’s turned into,” Schindler said. “But people need to start realizing that these types of things are happening.”
Rowan feels compelled to sound the alarm in case there are others falling through the same cracks.
“If there’s life there, it should be protected,” he said.
And regardless whether Tabetha’s abilities are diminished, Rowan said, “Her life was well worth saving and she means the world to me.”
A GoFundMe page has been established to assist with Tabetha’s expenses.