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Family faces off in court over Carmel man’s dying days

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CARMEL – The children of 88-year-old Paul Smith, a former lawyer and magistrate from Carmel, met in court Wednesday to argue over their father’s end of life care.

Smith was admitted to St. Vincent in late December for dehydration. Since then, his condition has deteriorated and doctors say they believe he is in the last days of his life.

Smith drew up a living will in 2004 that names his daughter, Judy Sly, as guardian of his end of life care.

But another of Smith’s daughters, Susan Rissman,–who had been caring for him in recent years—disagrees with doctors’ diagnoses regarding her father.

“Dad’s voice is not being heard,” Rissman said.

Rissman claims that doctors are denying her father food and water. She also refutes the diagnosis that he is at the end of life.

“He desperately wants to live and being given even the shot and chance, he will,” Rissman said.

Rissman and her lawyer, Tim Stoetz, called for the emergency hearing Wednesday, where she sat across a courtroom from her own sister. Despite their arguments over Smith’s care, the judge ultimately decided against them, after hearing testimony from doctors at St. Vincent. Sly will remain the guardian and Smith’s wishes in his living will are to be honored.

“It has been terribly traumatic for my client, she’s actually been vilified unnecessarily,” said Anne Poindexter, Judy Sly’s lawyer.

Sly declined to comment at the hearing. Poindexter told the court and Fox59 that Smith is being fed food and given proper nutrition. Doctors told the court that Smith has at times been unable to drink water because he chokes on it.

“He is receiving proper nutrition and hydration as his body, at this stage, can tolerate it,” Poindexter said.

Still, Rissman said she’ll continue to try to fight for her father’s care. Legally she is unlikely to have any other avenues to pursue and she has been dismissed from St. Vincent because of her interactions with hospital staff. She was left to plead with her sister.

“Judy, please give dad a chance. Give him food. Give him water. If you care about him, let him revive,” Rissman said.

Smith remains in the hospital, where staff members say his care is focused on keeping him comfortable in his last days.

31 comments

  • Mary Kay

    OMG!!!! I was astounded when this happened to my father! My voice did not matter. My fathers living will may have said do not resesitate, but legally & morally it did NOT say starve me too death. My mom & sister knew he had a term life insurance policy & that if he lived my mother would receive no life insurance payout. It truly came down to money! He went in for pneumonia & I was told his lungs were clear & "fine". A Physician told my mom if they feed & hydrate him there was a 50% chance of him coming home!!! Those odds sounded pretty good to me. Instead, they too opted to starve him & legally, how the H is that possible? He died, & I blame St Vincent's for having any policy like that in place, & my mother who had the final say. Of course when you are elderly & sick withholding food & water will ensure your death. It makes me sick & I feel sorry for the daughter who wants him to live. Having said that, a lot of caregivers are ready for them to go:(

  • Allen Montgomery

    If this Fox News report was my only source of information about the case, I might characterize it as a very sad case in which Susan Rissman appears incapable of accepting the reality that her father is dying. That is not the impression I got from actually talking to her, and to others who have been involved in this case. But that appears to be the best that Fox News can do with their news bites.

    Doctors are saying that his kidneys have quit working, but that he has been eating ice cream. If you're kidneys quit working, ice cream will kill you. He is still alive nine days after being disconnected from the ventilator, which leads me to believe his kidneys are just fine.

    The real danger is that he will die from dehydration, because these idiots are concerned that he will choke on the water. That may have been a legitimate concern when he was first removed from the ventilator, but not nine days later.

    Outside the court room, the camera crew asked for descriptions of the principals, so they could get a good shot as they exited the court room. I told them, "If you see a woman going around threatening to sue everyone for slander, that would be Judith Sly.

    In my opinion, Judith Sly, who has had very little to do with her father in recent years, showed up when he was deathly ill, so she could kill him and get her hands on his money. If she wants to sue me for saying so, she is more than welcome.

    • PJS

      JUDITH SLY HASN'T BEEN ABLE TO BE NEXT TO HER FATHER FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS BECAUSE SUSIE THROWS A TANTRUM REMINISCENT OF A 5 YEAR OLD WHENEVER ANY LEGITIMATE FAMILY MEMBERS COME TO VISIT PAUL G. SMITH. RISSMAN HAS NOT WORKED A DAY IN HER LIFE AND HAS USED PAUL AS A MEAL TICKET SINCE SHE WAS BORN. A REPORT WAS FILED TO ADULT PROTECTIVE SERVICES AGAINST HER IN AUGUST WHICH IS WHY WE ARE WHERE WE ARE TODAY.

      SUSIE IS AN ATTEMPTED MURDERER!!!! SHE POURED ORANGE JUICE DOWN PAUL G. SMITH's THROAT WHILE HE WAS UNCONSCIOUS CAUSING HIM TO ASPERATE, THUS GETTING HERSELF BANNED FROM ST VINCENT HOSPITAL. SHE IS A DANGER TO ANYONE SHE COMES IN CONTACT WITH.

      I WON'T SUE YOU, BUT I WILL PRAY FOR YOU THAT YOUR CAR'S BRAKES GIVE OUT ON THE WAY DOWN A HILL, ASSHOLE.

      • Allen Montgomery

        So Susan throws a tantrum when any "Legitimate" family member comes around. So you're saying Susan is not a legitimate family member? Was she adopted? This is a whole new angle for me.

      • spokenword100

        WOW that last statement was reckless at best…now if that was to happen to Allen Montgomery. Who would be looked to first…YOU! In times life this families should come together with love and support.

      • Allen Montgomery

        I agree that this situation would work out much better if the entire family would work together. But Paul is suggesting that Susan Rissman is not a "legitimate" family member. I'm just trying to understand what he means by that. I kind of get the feeling someone got their feelings hurt at the age of five, and that's what a lot of this stuff is really about.

  • Sandra

    There are thickening products that can be put in liquids to help the PT consume them if they choke on liquids. Applesaude is 3/4 liquid. which can be given to hydrate. These products work if the person is able to form a bolus and swallow.

  • Paul Steven Smith

    To all of you self-important, self-styled "experts" whose base ignorance has been inflamed by the media stories typically biased to sell copy rather than tell the truth, and further have had the temerity to spew your vile opinions regarding any of my siblings, my family members, or the devoted legal and medical professionals who have done yeoman's work in determining and carrying out the wishes of my father, providing him the best and most appropriate medical care and preserving his comfort and dignity: "honi soit qui mal y pense." I urge you all to examine your filthy consciences (should such exist), and may God have mercy on your wretched souls (if you indeed have any).

    • Dawn Robertson

      Paul, I don't believe the Lord would approve of such attacks against your family or from your family to the general public or more importantly to your sister, Susie. I think it is so sad that the family was unable to put differences aside in order to bring your father true peace. You are a psychologist, if memory serves me, and I must say, it has been incredibly painful to watch Susie fall apart all the while her siblings pass her by as if she meant nothing. Well, Susie is loved by our Lord, just as He loves all of you. I know with every tear shed in this case, from the family, friends and those who did not know your father but felt the pain, God cries even more for He has taught us to love first. I pray that you will remember you have another sibling who could use your love and support right now. Susie is a good person. She loves her father very much. Her loyalty to him is genuine and her compassion unquestionable. I know you and the rest have some issues with her but don't you think it is time to heal this family for everyone's sake. Your father deserves it.

      • PAUL JOSEPH SMITH

        SUSIE IS AN ATTEMPTED MURDERER!!!! SHE POURED ORANGE JUICE DOWN PAUL G. SMITH's THROAT WHILE HE WAS UNCONSCIOUS CAUSING HIM TO ASPERATE, THUS GETTING HERSELF BANNED FROM ST VINCENT HOSPITAL. SHE IS A DANGER TO ANYONE SHE COMES IN CONTACT WITH. I HOPE THE TWO OF YOU HAVE A NICE LONG TIME TOGETHER IN PRISON WHERE YOU BELONG!!

        FURTHERMORE, I HAVE PERSONALLY SEEN MY GRANDFATHER SINCE SUSIE HAS BEEN REMOVED, AND HE IS BETTER BECAUSE SHE IS NOT THERE. AND HE IS NOT BEING DENIED NUTRITION NOR HYDRATION.

        GO BACK TO HELL WITH SUSIE WHERE THE TWO OF YOU CAME FROM

      • Allen Montgomery

        I was in the court room, and heard the testimony given by Dr. Anthony L. Martin, the Doctor who asked that Susan Rissman be barred from the hospital. If she did anything to jeopardize his health, it is odd that he made no such claim. By his own admission, he was reacting to the videotape.

        As for prison, am I more likely to go to prison for expressing my opinion than you are for attempting to run your sister down with a car?

        Also, I understand that you are a psychologist. As I've heard it, you have a PHD that you didn't even earn. Daddy got it for you.

      • ClanSmokeJaguar

        >you have a PHD that you didn't even earn. Daddy got it for you.

        For my clarification, are you saying the old guy somehow got a the son a degree that he was not entitled to?

      • Allen Montgomery

        I'm not saying this was done though illegal means. It was by means of a lawsuit.

        I have never met Paul G. Smith myself. But from what I have heard, he has always been a decent man, but was a shrewd attorney and a very dangerous opponent in the court room. As a father, one of his failings appears to be that he indulged his kids a bit too much. In the process, he created a couple of very nasty street fighters who seem to feel that the law exists primarily to serve their every whim.

        Judith Sly is not a decent human being, but she does appear to be a brilliant chemist. As for the son, Paul Steven Smith, if he was forced to survive on what he has actually earned, I suspect he would be living under a bridge.

      • ClanSmokeJaguar

        >forced to survive on what he has actually earned, I suspect he would be living under a bridge.

        Wow! lol….

        And who are you to this family?

      • ClanSmokeJaguar

        Well I'm siding with you on this matter then my friend. Mainly because you haven't come onto this "show" with profanity and vulgarity to make your point.

        lol

      • Dawn Robertson

        Paul J.
        I have known your grandfather for 8 years. He is a wonderful man and very loving to your Aunt Susie. He never spoke ill of the rest of the family. However, conversations did take place between him and I in which he initiated. In these conversations, He expressed strongly that he did not want Judy to be in charge. He would never say why and I never asked. I do not want to involve myself in family issues. That is not important at this point. The family should come together, at least for your grandfather's sake. He deserves peace. Yelling at me for supporting Susie in her time of need, is unreasonable on your part. BTW, Susie was banned from hospital because the hospital was afraid of a lawsuit. I was there and Dr. Martin did state he was unhappy about the videos. That was his reason for banning her. In addition, you have the facts about the O.J. wrong. Check with the Nurse, also named Susan who told Susie, Paul could have anything he wanted. There is a lot of misinformation floating around. When I state something, it is because I was there. I do not rely on statements from others as the gospel truth unless I witnessed the event. This whole situation is a shame. I have seen many families who have had their differences, put them aside at times like this. I am truly thankful for my family and our love for one another, all of us.

      • Dawn Robertson

        FYI, Your grandfather was given orange juice the night he was taken off ventilator. The next day, his feeding tube was removed along with IV fluids. He was not given any nutrition nor hydration for two days in any form. Again, I was there. I even question a woman from Nursing Administration on Wednesday the 9th, about your grandfather's repeated requests for food and water. She refused to listen to Him. He was being treated by the hospital as if he were already dead. I had been to visit Paul nearly every day, morning, noon and night. I have spent hours upon hours there. I do know what I am talking about. This is all such a shame. Your grandfather has a beautiful spirit and I know God has him in his hands. I will continue to pray for everyone involved.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure the details on his condition but I do know in a person’s final days it is better not to give food or water because dehydration causes the patient to slip into a painless, euphoric state. This makes them comfortable. However, this is once its confirmed they are in the dying stages and their organs are shutting down.

  • Allen Montgomery

    I know that a person who is in the final stages will often refuse food and water. And that should be their prerogative. But there is nothing respectful about withholding water from a person who asks for it, as this man has repeatedly. There is also no kindness in preventing him from receiving visits from the one daughter who actually wants to visit him. Judith hates her sister so much, that she will gladly kill her father in order to spite her sister.

  • ClanSmokeJaguar

    lol @ the Family Feud being carried out on Fox59 comment section.

    <popping some popcorn for the show>

    • spokenword100

      Sounds like The father might be a paper wight and some of these family members are eager to be free and paid! The next argument will be what the shunned daughter will get out the will. Please cover that argument to FOX 59!!!!

  • bob searcy

    theres nothing more annoying than a family member hovering in a hospital questioning every move a doctor makes. docs dont just make things up as they go along, they are following professional and federal ( and proven ) protocol.
    ive been reading a forum on an aging care site. a large percentage of the input is from bitter relatives trying to dictate to the primary caregiver how they could do so much better. i think the best caregiver is the one who follows the docs instructions without a bunch of yap..

    • Allen Montgomery

      I am sure that even the best doctors sometimes find concerned family members annoying. But I also believe these annoying family members often play a vital role in holding doctors and other care givers accountable. Keeping them out of the way would certainly benefit the doctor, but not necessarily the patient.

      Patients who don't have family members looking out for them are more likely to be left lying in their own feces for extended periods, among other things. This sort of thing is rarely the doctor's fault, but it happens nonetheless.

      My grandmother, who was in her eighties at the time, once went into the hospital and the doctors were ready to give up on her, just because she was so old. She had always been a very energetic woman who, despite her age, ran around like a woman in her twenties. Family members saw that, but all the doctors saw was an old woman lying in a bed. I attribute her recovery largely to the fact that my aunt was a royal pain in the butt.

    • Dawn Robertson

      second opinions and asking questions is a matter of right and responsibility when caring for a loved one. Egos have more to do with doctors getting upset. This woman has not caused any problems with the hospital. How do I know, read my previous posts.

  • Been There

    Bob Searcy, you are wrong on that point. I had to fight a doctor in an end of life issue over my mother at St. Vincent in Carmel. In the end, the hospital did side with me & help me but not after a HORRID 18 battle over her care. In a nutshell, this Doctor said that there was a 90% chance she would die if he operated on her but wanted to anyway. He actually ordered her pain medication stopped because I said no to the operation. YES……A dying cancer patient's pain meds!! I AM NOT KIDDING!

    DO NOT assume that every doctor is all knowing, all good. There ARE bad doctors at St. Vincent!

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