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Friday, July 15, 2005

Woman dies. Hospitals Overriding Health Care Proxies.

Last Month Barbara Howe Died. Naturally, but not before the Hospital challenged her family to Barbara's aggressive health care.

Barbara Howe came down with ALS ( Lou Gehrigs Disease), in 1991. She gradually lost her ability to speak, gesture, and even blink her eyes, leaving her unable to communicate her wishes. Howe's room on the 21st floor of the hospital's Phillips House became her world.

Her Daughters visited everyday. Carol who was her mother's healthcare proxy visited four days a week, while another daughter, Maureen Howe, came every night from 7 to 11:30 p.m., tending to their mother's needs, from helping take her blood pressure to suctioning mucus from her lungs. Carvitt maintained that her mother wanted aggressive treatment as long as she could enjoy her family, and she believed up until the end that her mother still did.

In court documents and testimony, nurses referred to Howe as a ''war horse" and said she ''wanted everything done to maintain her, including CPR, antibiotics, and ICU." But after Howe's bones broke during routine turning and doctors had to remove her right eye because of corneal damage, her caregivers grew increasingly opposed to keeping her on a ventilator. Many believed she was in terrible pain, but had no way of communicating it.

Carvitt, however, said she felt obligated to carry out her mother's wishes and did not believe that she was suffering.

But earlier this year, Howe's doctors said her condition was deteriorating and asked the hospital's end-of-life committee to again order removal of her life support. Carvitt went back to court to block the move.
Carol fought the recommendations of doctors at Mass. General to end her mother's life support.