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    Posted May 10, 2010 by
    Horseheads, New York

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    Victim of The System


    by Carrie K. Hutchens

    In early June, I learned about the Gary Harvey case via the Hospice Patient’s Alliance and the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA).

    This is a case where a 55 year old man had a heart attack, fell down the basement stairs, and ended up severely brain damaged. It is a case where still another so-called ethics committee felt it had some sort of god-like wisdom and right to determine life or death for a stranger. It is a case where a so-called ethics committee decided, behind closed doors, that it was perfectly okay to starve and dehydrate this man — Gary Harvey — to death by termination of his Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) feeding tube.

    It’s difficult not to be surprised by people so coldly dismissing the life of another human being, and the willingness to put them down (to sleep) in such a calculating fashion as we now see all too often happening through, and at the hands of, so-called ethics committees. It is difficult not to be surprised, but I always am.

    Gary is never going to be the person he was four or five years ago. No one is suggesting he will be. However, who is to say that he can’t enjoy his life as it has become — if he is cared for properly and surrounded by love? Who is to say? People who base life on quality and by their terms and not necessarily the terms of the person in question? Or, by people who know him and at least have a clue (and a care) as to what might be his wish under these difficult circumstances?

    When I look at this case, I can’t help but notice that while Sara was considered a danger to her husband and denied the rights of free visitation and decision-making, no one was denying (or refusing) the insurance payments she was assuring were going to be made. Wasn’t it only after Sara dropped the insurance that the ethic’s committee decided that it was in Gary’s best interest to be starved and dehydrated to death?

    Coincidence or design?

    The irony is beyond belief.

    Right or wrong, Sara did cut a “fish line” on an allegedly defective trach. (Gary was not on a ventilator or respirator. The trach is an aid to hopefully prevent aspiration.) While ill-advised for non-medical personnel to do such a thing, and no one is advising others to likewise do it, it isn’t as black and white as it sounds.

    From what it appears, the trach was defective for at least two weeks and staff was well aware that it was. However, nothing was apparently done to fix the problem. Instead, there was Gary pulling on the “fish line”, as he had been frequently doing through those two weeks.

    Sara told the nurse that it was bothering him. The nurse, I’m told, did not even walk over to see for herself, though she was right there. Sara said she was going to cut the “fish line”. The nurse shrugged. Sara cut the line, with the facility’s scissors. The nurse did nothing to either stop Sara or in response to her having cut the line. As a matter of fact, Sara stayed perhaps another two hours before going home around 8:30 PM.

    At approximately 10:30 PM, she received a call saying they were taking Gary to the ER to have his trach evaluated.

    Though Gary suffered no injury or distress, and the problem was resolved as it should have been done two weeks prior, Sara was to be considered (from then on) a danger to her husband. She was to lose her say in his care decisions and restricted to supervised and limited visitation.

    However, though Sara was (and is) supposedly considered a threat to her husband’s life, and therefore restricted to only supervised visits, it appears that it is the very people who are supposedly protecting Gary from being killed off by her that are striving to kill him off themselves. Makes sense, I suppose, if one were living in the Twilight Zone.

    Not so surprising, contrary to what the so-called ethics committee supposedly concluded on May 29, 2009, Gary’s condition has actually improved. However, a doctor allegedly ordered a DNR for Gary, rather than wait for the court to make a decision about that and other matters.

    The hearing, scheduled for July 27, 2009, isn’t that far off, so why the need to rush a DNR order through? What is the hurry? Why is CCNF clinging so hard to keep Gary in their control? No one is forcing Chemung County Nursing Facility (CCNF) to be the appointed care facility for Gary, so why do they feel it is necessary to terminate him, rather than let him go home with his wife to live or die? Why can’t they simply terminate their control over this man, rather than terminate the man himself? Why being a very important question.

    The hearing is July 27, 2009. May the answers be found and the good fight for Gary Harvey be won. It is, after all, a win for not just one, but our society as a whole. We are how we treat the weakest among us. Let us treat them well!

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