In a situation recalling the recent death of Terri Schiavo in Florida, an 81-year-old widow, denied nourishment and fluids for nearly two weeks, is clinging to life in a hospice in LaGrange, Ga., while her immediate family fights desperately to save her life before she dies of starvation and dehydration.
Mae Magouirk was not terminally ill, comatose nor in a “vegetative state,” when Hospice-LaGrange accepted her as a patient about two weeks ago upon the request of her granddaughter, Beth Gaddy, 36, an elementary school teacher.
Also upon Gaddy’s request and without prior legal authority, since March 28 Hospice-LaGrange has denied Magouirk normal nourishment or fluids via a feeding tube through her nose or fluids via an IV. She has been kept sedated with morphine and ativan, a powerful tranquillizer.
Her nephew, Ken Mullinax, told WorldNetDaily that although Magouirk is given morphine and ativan, she has not received any medication to keep her eyes lubricated during her forced dehydration.
“They haven’t given her anything like that for two weeks,” said Mullinax. “She can’t produce tears.”
The dehydration is being done in defiance of Magouirk’s specific wishes, which she set down in a “living will,” and without agreement of her closest living next-of-kin, two siblings and a nephew: A. Byron McLeod, 64, of Anniston, Ga.; Ruth Mullinax, 74, of Birmingham, Ala.; and Ruth Mullinax’s son, Ken Mullinax.
Magouirk’s husband and only child, a son, are both deceased.
In her living will, Magouirk stated that fluids and nourishment were to be withheld only if she were either comatose or “vegetative,” and she is neither. Nor is she terminally ill, which is generally a requirement for admission to a hospice.
Magouirk lives alone in LaGrange, though because of glaucoma she relied on her granddaughter, Beth Gaddy, to bring her food and do errands.
Two weeks ago, Magouirk’s aorta had a dissection, and she was hospitalized in the local LaGrange Hospital. Her aortic problem was determined to be severe, and she was admitted to the intensive care unit. At the time of her admission she was lucid and had never been diagnosed with dementia.
Claiming that she held Magouirk’s power of attorney, Gaddy had her transferred to Hospice-LaGrange, a 16-bed unit owned by the same family that owns the hospital. Once at the hospice, Gaddy stated that she did not want her grandmother fed or given water.
“Grandmama is old and I think it is time she went home to Jesus,” Gaddy told Magouirk’s brother and nephew, McLeod and Ken Mullinax. “She has glaucoma and now this heart problem, and who would want to live with disabilities like these?”
Gaddy’s telephone is not in operation and she could not be reached for comment.
According to Mullinax, his aunt’s local cardiologist in LaGrange, Dr. James Brennan, and Dr. Raed Agel, a highly acclaimed cardiologist at the nationally renowned University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center, determined that her aortic dissection is contained and not life-threatening at the moment.
Mullinax also states that Gaddy did not hold power of attorney, a fact he learned from the hospice’s in-house legal counsel, Carol Todd.
On March 31, Todd told Ruth and Ken Mullinax during a phone conversation Georgia law stipulated that Ruth Mullinax and her brother, A.B. McLeod, were entitled to make any and all decisions for Magouirk. Ruth Mullinax immediately told Todd to begin administering food and fluids through an IV and a nasal feeding tube.
Todd had the IV fluids started that evening, but informed the family that they would have to come to the hospice to sign papers to have the feeding tube inserted. Once that was done, Magouirk would not be able to stay at the hospice.
Ken Mullinax recalled that Todd said the only reason Magouirk was in the hospice in the first place was that the LaGrange Hospital had failed to exercise due diligence in closely examining the power of attorney Beth Gaddy said she had, as well as exercising the provisions of Magouirk’s living will.
Todd explained that Gaddy had only a financial power of attorney, not a medical power of attorney, and Magouirk’s living will carefully provided that a feeding tube and fluids should only be discontinued if she was comatose or in a “vegetative state” – and she was neither.
Gaddy, however, was not dissuaded. When Ken Mullinax and McLeod showed up at the hospice the following day, April 1, to meet with Todd and arrange emergency air transport for Magouirk’s transfer to the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center, Hospice-LaGrange stalled them while Gaddy went before Troup County, Ga., Probate Court Judge Donald W. Boyd and obtained an emergency guardianship over her grandmother.
Under the terms of his ruling, Gaddy was granted full and absolute authority over Magouirk, at least for the weekend. She took advantage of her judge-granted power by ordering her grandmother’s feeding tube pulled out, just hours after it had been inserted.
Georgia law requires that a hearing for an emergency guardianship must be held within three days of its request, and Magouirk’s hearing was held April 4 before Judge Boyd. Apparently, he has not made a final ruling, but favors giving permanent guardianship power to Gaddy, who is anxious to end her grandmother’s life.
Ron Panzer, president and founder of Hospice Patients Alliance, a patients’ rights advocacy group based in Michigan, told WND that what is happening to Magouirk is not at all unusual.
“This is happening in hospices all over the country,” he said. “Patients who are not dying – are not terminal – are admitted [to hospice] and the hospice will say they are terminally ill even if they’re not. There are thousands of cases like this. Patients are given morphine and ativan to sedate them. If feeding is withheld, they die within 10 days to two weeks. It’s really just a form of euthanasia.”
Ken Mullinax does not want that to happen to his aunt. He pointed out that one of the ironies in this tragedy is that the now-helpless woman worked for years as a secretary for a prominent local cancer doctor.
“She devoted her whole life to helping those who heal others, and now she’s being denied sustenance for life,” he said.
Mullinax said he has begged Gaddy to let him take on full responsibility for his aunt’s care.
“If she would just give us a chance to keep Aunt Mae alive, that’s all we ask,” he said. “They [Beth and her husband, Dennis Gaddy] have a family and Beth is a teacher, and it was just getting to be a lot of trouble. But I’m the caregiver for my mom, and Aunt Mae could move in with us. We’ll buy another house with a bedroom and we’ll take care of her. She can move in with us once she can leave the hospital.”
But her health becomes more precarious by the hour. Her vital signs are still good, but since admission to hospice she has not been lucid – “but who would be since nourishment and fluids have been denied since March 28,” Mullinax remarked.
Attorney Carol Todd could not be reached for comment; a message on her voicemail said she would be gone the entire week of April 4. Hospice-LaGrange did not return phone calls.
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