In an intense life-and-death tug-of-war reminiscent of the Terri Schiavo case, the fate of Ora Mae Magouirk is still raging, despite the transfer Saturday of the 81-year-old widow to the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center in Birmingham for treatment of an aorta dissection.
In the latest twist to the saga, Magouirk’s granddaughter, Beth Gaddy, 36, of LaGrange, Ga, who is also her temporary guardian, barred immediate next-of-kin from visiting the stricken woman. No explanation was given, nor were the relatives notified.
When Magouirk’s brother, A.B. McLeod, 64, of Anniston, Ala., attempted to visit Magouirk Sunday, the charge nurse said an order had been given not to allow him or his sister, Lonnie Ruth Mullinax, 74, of Birmingham, to visit their sister. The nurse refused to reveal the source of the order or even if it were written or oral, and had McLeod escorted from the premises.
“We’re just flabbergasted,” McLeod told WorldNetDaily. “We don’t know what to think. Why not let me see her? What’s the big deal?”
McLeod spent Monday trying to determine the origin of the order “that’s keeping me from seeing my sister, because I’m Mae’s closest living kin – me and my sister, Lonnie Ruth.” By late afternoon he was still in the dark, though he strongly suspected Gaddy was responsible. Gaddy had opposed her grandmother being moved to UAB for medical treatment and had been granted a temporary guardianship by Probate Judge Donald Boyd on April 4.
“It’s got to be Beth, because she’s the only one to do it,” said McLeod. “We don’t think that [the order] is legal in Georgia or Alabama, but right now it is a barrier. Right now it’s stopping us from seeing her.”
Yesterday, McLeod finally learned through his attorneys that Gaddy had indeed given verbal instructions to the staff at UAB to deny him, his sister Lonnie Ruth, or his nephew Kenneth Mullinax, 45, of Birmingham, permission to visit their sister and aunt.
Moreover, the hospital staff is forbidden to give them any information about Magouirk’s condition. Even her physician, cardiologist Dr. Raed Aqel, who is also treating Ruth Mullinax’s aortic dissection and is McLeod’s physician as well, cannot reveal how their sister is faring since her admission to UAB.
WorldNetDaily attempted numerous times to reach Gaddy, but she changed her telephone to a non-listed number. Her attorney, Danny Daniel, told WND through his secretary that he was not prepared to comment on the case. Messages left on his voicemail were not returned.
Judge Boyd told the Birmingham News that Gaddy would be within her rights as guardian to prevent visitors from seeing Magouirk. “If she thought it would upset Mrs. Magouirk, she had every right,” Boyd said.
As WND reported, Magouirk was not terminally ill, comatose, nor in a persistent vegetative state when Hospice-Lagrange accepted her as a patient upon Gaddy’s request.
At a hearing held April 4, Gaddy told Judge Boyd she believed that since she held a general power of attorney for her grandmother she was entitled to make medical decisions on the older woman’s behalf. When Magouirk suffered an aorta dissection in mid-March and required hospitalization, Gaddy – after eight days – ordered her grandmother transferred from the local hospital in LaGrange to the hospice.
According to documents filed with the court, Gaddy was very explicit in her reasons for wanting Magouirk placed in a hospice. In a petition objecting to Gaddy’s April 1 request for full guardianship, McLeod quoted remarks Gaddy allegedly made to him and Kenneth Mullinax when Magouirk was in the intensive care unit at the hospital, before her transfer to hospice on March 22. Gaddy said, according to McLeod in his court petition:
(a) “Uncle Buddy, before you and Kenny try to get Grandmamma to UAB to get well, I want you to know that I am in charge now, it’s totally up to me
because I hold the medical power of attorney and Grandmamma has suffered to
[sic] much and I want her to stay here in LaGrange.”
(b) “I don’t care if they are the best doctors in the whole world. I have
prayed about this and God has told me that Grandmamma is ready to go home
with Jesus and Granddaddy. Since I hold the medical power to do this, it is
my decision and I want her to go to hospice. Her heart is now bad and she
has glaucoma and blood clots. Grandmamma told me she wants to go home and I
feel that means that she wants to die so I want her to go to Hospice. I
promise y’all I won’t withhold anything Grandmamma needs.”
(c) “Grandmamma is ready to go to heaven and Jesus has told her this so
Grandmamma will stay here at the Hospice and I will make sure she gets good
heart medicine and care here and that she is given food and water.”
“That was an eyeball-to-eyeball, face-to-face conversation,” McLeod said. In his view, Magouirk’s remark about wanting to “go home” did not signal a wish to die.
“To me, when she says she wants to go home, she wants to go to her house,” he explained. “But Beth interpreted that [to mean] she wants to go home to be with Charlie – that’s her husband that passed away a number of years ago.”
Until her recent hospitalization, Magouirk lived on her own in the same house she and her late husband had lived in for over 50 years. Since developing glaucoma, she has had a woman come each day to do chores and drive her to appointments. Gaddy, an elementary school teacher, does not live with Magouirk but helps with shopping and running errands.
McLeod said he opposed his sister being placed in a hospice, but this was done despite his objections.
“I was definitely against that from the very beginning, because hospice was not going to do anything to keep her alive,” he explained. “I made that clear to Beth, and she let me know right quick that she was in charge and she would make the decisions, and the next thing I knew [Magouirk] was in hospice.”
According to Kenneth Mullinax, on March 31 during a telephone conversation a nurse at the hospice informed him that, per Gaddy’s orders, Magouirk was being denied adequate hydration and nourishment in an apparent effort to hasten her death.
When he learned of this, Mullinax protested to the hospice administration. In a telephone conversation that afternoon with hospice attorney Carol Todd, he says he learned that Gaddy did not hold a medical power of attorney, and that under Georgia law Magouirk’s siblings were entitled to make decisions regarding their sister’s care. The mistake was originally made when she was admitted to the hospital and perpetuated during her stay at Hospice.
Ruth Mullinax told Todd she wanted her sister provided immediately with fluids through an IV and a nasal feeding tube inserted so she could receive nourishment.
Todd said that hydration through an IV could be started, but their signatures were required for a nasal feeding tube. However, if this were done Magouirk would not qualify for hospice care and could no longer be a patient at Hospice-LaGrange.
McLeod and his nephew made arrangements to have Magouirk admitted to the UAB
Medical Center, and the following morning drove from Birmingham to LaGrange to sign the papers authorizing the transfer, only to find themselves stalled by personnel.
“You know, when we found out [Gaddy] didn’t have medical durable power of attorney, and we found out they weren’t giving my sister any nourishment or water, we went there and were going to move her because we though we could,” McLeod recalled. “We thought we could. We thought that Georgia law allowed us to.”
However, Gaddy and her brother, Michael Shane Magouirk, moved swiftly, and on April 1 – as McLeod and Ken Mullinax were meeting with hospice personnel – sought an emergency injunction from Troup County Probate Judge Donald Boyd blocking Magouirk’s removal from the hospice.
In a handwritten petition, Gaddy stated simply she believed “irreparable harm will occur to the proposed ward [Magouirk] if she is removed from Hospice.” Boyd granted the petition, and with the signed order in hand Gaddy drove to the hospice.
‘She’s not leaving’
McLeod and Mullinax sensed the staff was trying to delay them, but couldn’t figure out why. They learned soon enough.
“While they stalled us at Hospice, she got a court order from the LaGrange Probate Court making her temporary guardian, and all she did was hand that to the nurse at the hospice, and the nurse just handed us a copy of it and said, ‘She’s not leaving,'” McLeod said.
The order gave Gaddy “authority to make all medical decisions concerning the medical care of the ward until further order of the court.”
McLeod and Lonnie Ruth protested the guardianship, and at a hearing April 4 Boyd signed a second order that formalized an agreement between the two Magouirk grandchildren and their grandmother’s brother and sister.
Under its terms, Gaddy would continue as Magouirk’s temporary guardian, but a formal attached letter stated her powers were limited. One of the conditions of her guardianship was “To see that the ward [Magouirk] is adequately fed, clothed, sheltered and cared for, and receives all necessary medical attention, including placement in a nursing home, if appropriate.”
Also, the order required evaluation of Magouirk’s condition by three cardiologists, to decide whether she would benefit from treatment, and if so, where the treatment should take place. On Friday, the physicians agreed her aorta dissection was treatable and Magouirk was airlifted to UAB Saturday morning.
As soon as they learned their aunt was at the medical center, Ken Mullinax and his younger brother, Jonathan, drove to the medical center where the charge nurse informed them about the order. She demanded that they leave and had them escorted from the hospital by three armed security agents.
McLeod, himself, tried again the following day, Sunday, and like his nephews was asked to leave.
“It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.