A local woman is desperately trying to help her sick father in the hospital, but she says she’s not being allowed near him. Now, she fears her father may die without dignity. The battle revolves around the patient’s will and an “end of life” directive.
Susan Rissman said she’s been the primary caretaker for her father, 88-year-old Paul Smith, for the last seven years. Smith, a well-known Carmel attorney, was hospitalized at St. Vincent on Christmas Day for dehydration.
Rissman told Fox59 she does not believe her father is on his death bed, but said her sister, Judith Sly, has power of attorney and told the hospital staff to execute end of life directives, despite her pleas to give her father nourishment.
“He’s stated on video many times, ‘I need food, I need water,’” said Rissman. “But my sister is pushing really hard to remove all nourishment to not give him any chance at all.”
Rissman’s lawyer just filed an emergency request at the Hamilton Superior Court, requesting for a judge to hear this case and asking why the hospital is administering emergency directives when her father is conscious and aware. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. Rissman fears her father won’t make it that long.
“Is he in good of health as you or I? No, let’s be honest about it. But he can clearly say, ‘I want a drink of water now,’” said Rissman’s attorney Tim Stoesz, who filed the emergency request for a hearing.
Rissman said the situation is a matter of dignity.
“I don’t think as an attorney I can say he’s legally competent,” said Stoesz. “Is he aware he is not able to have water and food? Yes. Is he asking for water? Yes. I don’t know the medical reasoning behind denying him water.”
Rissman’s sister’s attorney says it’s not true and issued a statement to Fox59 News.
“The care that Mr. Smith is receiving is consistent with not only sound medical judgment but also with his living will and the order entered in this case,” read the statement. “Contrary to stories previously reported, Mr. Smith has received food and hydration as tolerated and as appropriate for his medical condition throughout his stay at St Vincent. He is receiving IV and oral fluids as tolerated.”
However, Rissman does not believe he is getting what he needs to survive. She also said she’s not even allowed to visit him.
“They have a safety sitter, they call it, sitting in the room all the time to prevent me, giving Dad, even swabbing his mouth,” said Rissman.
St. Vincent Health issued the following statement to Fox59:
“We affirm the personal dignity of every human being does not change even if seriously ill or disabled. According to the ethical and religious directives for catholic health care services, it is our responsibility to conduct a thorough medical evaluation of patients’ ability to tolerate food and hydration, assess the effectiveness in prolonging life, and take into consideration patients’ capacity to make their own healthcare decisions.”