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.