Woman fears ill father not getting the care he needs to survive

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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.”


  • Indiana Jones

    This happened to my grandmother because of her daughter having power of attorney. It is a cruel way to die.
    Since when do humans get to do God's will?

    Whatever I can do to help this man and his daughter, I would love to help!!

    • Dawn Robertson

      She would love to hear from you. Look up # and give her a call She needs all the support she can get

  • Indiana Jones

    And it happened to my grandmother at …St. Vincent hospital.
    Boycott St. Vincent unless they do the right thing.
    Fox 59 is more than welcome to contact me.

    • Dawn Robertson

      Contact Greg Gotolski at gotolski@archindy.org. He is director of Catholic Commnications. He told me, Bishop Coyne had contacted St. Vincent and felt comfortable they were following the law and Catholic teaching. He did all of this on the word of a hospital trying to prevent a lawsuit, wow what a joke! Everyone might want to rethink the Catholic faith. Here is a novel idea, why not just be a Christian!

  • Sandra

    I made my living will out as soon as they became legal as I had seen many people have their families stuck with hugh medical bills for treatment when it was obvious they would not survive. Mine states that if the opinion of 2 Drs state that I will not have a Quality of life. I didn't see any mention in the article about if a Dr concurred with the directions from the daughter.

  • armymom521

    This is inhuman. He just needed to be dehydrated, He is a human being, i could see if he was unconcious , but he is not , This is just insane…

  • cjmo.2662

    The sad thing is, even a living will is not enough to protect someone; many times someone has a living will, and the doctors decide not to honor it because they are afraid of a malpractice suit. This man is in a no-win, inhumane situation, with 1 daughter wanting to keep him alive & 1 trying to get him to die- probably so she can get his money. I hope its tied up in probate for years; if they can't agree while he's alive, just wait till the will is read!

    • c_c

      "1 daughter wanting to keep him alive & 1 trying to get him to die- probably so she can get his money."

      Ironically, it's the other way around. This woman is dependent on him and wants to keep him alive so SS keeps rolling in, whereas the other daughter just wants to honor /his/ final wishes for the end of his life. This story is pure spin.

      • Dawn Robertson

        Listen I have first hand knowledge of the issues surrounding this case. I will not speculate on anyone's reasons for wanting one way or the other but this I can say, Sue Rissman has devoted the last seven years to caring for her father. If she had not been there, he more than likely would have been placed in a nursing home and then where would the family fortune be? Sue loves her father and money is not even a consideration. She is as frugal as they come.

      • loved my dad

        Susan Rissman must have loved her father very much. I'm sure his quality of life was much better with his daughter than in a nursing home. Hats off to you Susan Rissman.

  • Sandra

    I made my living will out as soon as they became legal as I had seen many people have their families stuck with hugh medical bills for treatment when it was obvious they would not survive. Mine states that if the opinion of 2 Drs state that I will not have a Quality of life. I didn't see any mention in the article about if a Dr concurred with the directions from the daughter.

  • Chiljunpalki

    Everyone has this backwards. He was admitted to the hospital due to dehydration while he was in the care of Rissman. She she did not take care of and denied the family of their grandparent and father I fear of what they may find. When the family discovered him with bed sores and dehydration and permanent back damage because he was left in chair all day neglected it was the youngest grandson who decided to help his grandfather out of his misery. He took him the hospital for care because Rissman neglected him. It was there that his condition was reported to APS. Because Rissman has not been taking care of him she lost guardianship. Her own son is property of the state because she could not take care of him . The state saw a pattern.

  • Compassion

    Rissman has a bad history and because she could not get his money and because she was cut off she called the paper. The hospital has been informed of Rissmans past and had her escorted out to prevent any more harm to him. He has no swallow reflex and she was feeding him. Since Sly has taken over he is now able to eat and swallow.

    • Dawn Robertson

      Oh this is really unbelievable. Look all you family members against Sue. Why don't you just grow a backbone and quit hiding behind false identities. You know who I am so show yourselves! You are so bitter and incapable of telling the truth because you have lost sight of it. Here is the truth for those of you who desire it. In August, a family member called adult protective services. Paul J Smith admits to it so I will accept he is the one. APS investigated presumably and no action was taken because none was needed. A doctor, named Wallbridge has been caring for Paul in his home for many months. Judy has stated that she doesn't believe he is a real doctor. Hmmm, look him up people. He is not only a real md, he specializes in internal medicine as I recall. As for Rissman's son, the State screwed that up so bad. Anyone want the recorded conversations on that, where the guardian admits the State should have never taken this young man and how they drugged this man and abused him. Keep talking family. The truth has and will continue to come out on the side of your poor sister, Susie who you have sadly mistreated and abused for far too long. God help you!

    • Dawn Robertson

      Where the HELL was Sly the night he was expected to die??????? I was there. God forgive me but you people have made me so angry for that reason alone. No other family member but Sue was there that night. I don't give a damn what the family history is about. There is no excuse for any of you who didn't show up for what was to be your father's last moments. period!!!!!!

    • loved my dad

      I was told my father had no swallow reflex. The hospital tried to withold nourishment from him. I gave him food and water and he lived. It is not right to starve a person to death just because he is old. I don't believe Paul Smith wanted to be starved when he made out his living will. I wonder how the sister that wants to withold nourishment from her father would feel if her family dog was starved to death(if she has one).

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