Scott A. Makuakane, Esq., CFP
Est8Planning Counsel LLLC
Member of the national ElderCare Matters Alliance, Hawaii chapter
The national press has picked up several reports in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about the plight of Karen Okada. Karen is a 95-year-old woman who signed a “Death with Dignity Declaration” and a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Instructions” back in 1998. Both documents purport to control “in all circumstances.”
The Queen’s Medical Center, where Karen was hospitalized for pneumonia, determined that Karen was essentially brain dead, or, in any event, had “permanently” lost the ability to participate in medical treatment decisions, and that the provisions of her Death with Dignity Declaration required that her feeding tube be withdrawn.
On the other hand, Karen’s health-care agent, in consultation with doctors who are not associated with Queen’s, disagreed with the conclusions reached by the Queen’s physicians. What the agent knew, and the Queen’s physicians discounted, was that just before she was hospitalized at Queen’s, Karen was conscious and able to interact meaningfully with her family and caregivers. During the time she was at Queen’s, on the other hand, Karen was for the most part unresponsive when doctors examined her, but her family reported that she smiled at least twice at her adult grandchildren and nodded to her grandson in response to his question of whether she was able to breathe freely.
The policy of Queen’s was to give precedence to an advance health-care directive over a durable power of attorney in all events, and without inquiring into why a person may have signed apparently contradictory documents. Accordingly, Queen’s took the unusual step of suing Karen’s health-care agent in order to get a court order forcing him to direct Karen’s physicians to remove her feeding tube.
Of course, no one would want to be part of this kind of drama. So what can you do to make your wishes clearly known so there will be no questions about how to carry them out?
Knowledge is power. The more you know about advance health-care directives, and the sooner you act on that knowledge, the more likely it will be that your wishes will be carried out.
In case you were curious about what happened to Karen, her family was successful in gaining her release from Queen’s and placing her in a care home. Since then, Karen has gained 20 pounds and has regained her ability to interact meaningfully with her family.
If you need answers to your elder care questions, send your questions to us at:
Answers are provided by our ElderCare Matters Partners, some of America's TOP Elder Care Professionals who have years of experience in helping families plan for and deal with a wide range of Elder Care / Senior Care Services.
All Q&A's are posted on the homepage of ElderCareMatters.com
If you help familes plan for or deal with elder care matters, then you owe it to yourself and to families across America to become a professional member of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance and to be listed on the many Elder Care / Senior Care Directories that are sponsored by this National Alliance of Elder Care Professionals.
For additional information about professional membership in the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, (including the many benefits of becoming one of our ElderCare Matters Partners) and to download an Application for your Basic, Premium or Partner Membership in the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, visit: ElderCare Matters Alliance.