Editor’s note: The following article is by Diana Lynne, author of a powerful, comprehensive book on Terri Schiavo’s life and death, entitled “Terri’s Story: The Court-Ordered Death of an American Woman.” This new WND Books release is now available at WorldNetDaily’s online store.
Family members are investigating what they consider to be suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of a nursing home patient at the center of a life and death tug-of-war reminiscent of the Terri Schiavo tragedy.
Seventy-nine-year-old Jimmy Chambers died in the early morning hours of Oct. 24 after the tracheotomy tubes that deliver oxygen from a ventilator to a hole in his neck became unhooked. Family members were told Chambers, a resident of the Anne Maria Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in North Augusta, S.C., apparently pulled the interlocking tubes apart.
“We’re having it investigated. We’re just incredulous,” Chambers’ daughter, Deanna Potter, told WND in reference to her siblings. “The last time I saw dad he was blowing me a kiss. I blew him one and he blew one back.”
The retired dispatcher for Holland Motor Express died approximately 10 hours later. His death certificate indicates he died of “natural causes.”
“Apparently, suffocation is a ‘natural cause’ when you’re on a ventilator. We’re contesting that,” said Potter. “He suffocated. He didn’t just pass away. He struggled and fought. And I’m just so angry.”
Potter estimates it would have taken 10 to 14 minutes for her father, deprived of oxygen, to fall unconscious, and questions why the nursing home staff didn’t come to his aid.
“The oxygen-saturation meter and his ventilator both would have had alarms going off. Four-thirty, five o’clock in the morning you’d think someone would hear this,” she added. “That’s the thing that really bothers me and makes me suspicious.”
Citing patient confidentiality, nursing home administrator Marcy Drewry declined comment.
WorldNetDaily exclusively reported the “active” and “vibrant” Chambers landed in Naples Community Hospital in Naples, Fla., on Aug. 20 after colliding with a tree limb while riding a lawnmower in his son’s yard. Chambers suffered a broken back, a spinal chord injury and a torn aorta.
Doctors performed surgery two days later and succeeded in repairing Chambers’ back, but determined he had become paraplegic. Spinal shock left him dependent on a ventilator, and a gastric feeding tube was inserted into his abdomen. The prognosis was grim. Doctors weren’t sure whether the Yuma, Ariz., resident would ever be able to come off the ventilator.
Chambers’ family was bitterly divided over whether to keep him connected to the life-sustaining ventilator or disconnect it.
Viola Chambers asserted her husband of 58 years, who signed a living will in Iowa in 1990, did not want to be kept alive by artificial means. Mrs. Chambers stated in a court petition that her husband had “attempted to remove the tracheal intubation on several occasions.”
Ten other family members – including four of his five children – and his initial treating physician signed sworn statements that Chambers himself indicated he wanted to stay on the ventilator, receive rehabilitative therapy and live. They say he communicated this by nodding his head “yes” and “no” to questions put to him during a Sept. 8 family meeting witnessed by 13 people in his hospital room.
According to Iowa law, a living will “may be revoked in any manner by which the Declarant is able to communicate the Declarant’s intent to revoke.”
The physician, Potter and her siblings considered the Iowa living will revoked and transferred Chambers two weeks later to Anne Maria, a facility that specializes in rehabilitating ventilator patients.
Viola Chambers, however, informed her husband’s new treating physician,
Dr. Nicholas Sanito, and the nursing home staff about the Iowa living will
and obtained Sanito’s signature on a Do-Not-Resuscitate order, according to
Sanito’s report filed with the court. This DNR may explain why the alarms
that should have sounded from the disconnected ventilator and the
oxygen-saturation monitor reportedly failed to rouse attention and
Mrs. Chambers repeatedly has declined to comment to WND.
Potter asserts her mother ordered all communications devices removed from her father’s nursing home room, including the nurse’s call button, and requested morphine and ativan be dispensed to her father in such a way that he had been infrequently sober enough to communicate.
Yet, according to Potter, on the rare occasions when they found him conscious, she and her siblings had several conversations with their father over the past several weeks, during which he “was always positive about going forward with rehab.” One conversation was reportedly captured on videotape.
The last such conversation took place the day before Chambers died.
“He was wide awake. He was excited,” Potter told WND. “We would write things down and show him and he would read it and respond to us. We asked him a lot of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions. … We talked a lot about what was going on in the family. We said there was a difference of opinion. Mom thought he was in a lot of pain and suffering and she didn’t think he wanted rehabilitation, but the rest of us felt he was ready for the work. And he gave us a big thumb’s up and a big smile.”
“I told him that we recommended that he have a health care guardian, someone to help him make his medical decisions,” Potter continued. “I told him that I recommended my brother, Randy, and he reached out his hand and shook Randy’s hand and nodded ‘yes.’”
According to court documents, Sanito also found Chambers “awake, alert and interactive” during an examination Sept. 26.
“He shakes my hands. He was trying to speak, but I couldn’t read his lips all that well,” Sanito wrote in a report of the exam supplied to WND.
Despite Chambers’ apparent responsiveness and efforts to communicate, the nursing home staff reportedly deferred to his wife regarding treatment decisions, over the objections of the children. The South Carolina Adult Health Care Consent Act gives the spouse the highest priority to make medical decisions in the absence of a designated health-care power of attorney.
The Long Term Care Ombudsman – the state agency charged with advocating on behalf of nursing home patients – affirmed Viola Chambers was the authorized decision maker and declined to intervene in the family dispute.
Subsequently, Randall Chambers filed an emergency petition Oct. 6 seeking appointment as temporary guardian of his father. Viola Chambers countered with her own petition.
“As his wife of 58 years, I am far more intimately aware of my husband’s wishes and desires as it pertains to his health-care treatment than any of my children,” she stated in her petition. “I therefore object to the appointment of my son, Randall Chambers, as temporary guardian for my husband as his appointment will undermine and deprive my husband of the health care he wishes and desires and which he has expressed to me on many occasions and also in writing.”
The probate court appointed an independent guardian ad litem to look into the matter. In her preliminary report dated Oct. 12, Paige Weeks Johnson stated she found Chambers “unresponsive to requests from his wife and daughter to wake up” during a recent visit.
“I believe all parties would agree that Mr. Chambers is incapacitated at this time,” Johnson wrote. “However, the Petitioner is of the opinion that if the ativan, benadryl and morphine were withdrawn that Mr. Chambers would again be able to make his own medical decisions.”
“It just bothers me that his consciousness was stolen by those drugs they were giving him,” Potter told WND. “Weeks of his life were taken from him. He was put in a stupor when he could have been treated and up and about and rehabilitated.”
Johnson recommended the judge order the ventilator and feeding tube remain in place until further order of the court, and until she had the opportunity to speak with the treating physician.
For some unexplained reason, according to Potter, the nursing home staff changed course during the last days of his life and determined Chambers should have the say about his medications, not his wife.
“At one point [during the last family visit] my dad wanted something. So we called in a nurse and said, ‘We don’t know exactly what he wants, but he wants something,’” Potter recounted. “[The nurse] came in and asked him some questions and said, ‘Mr. Chambers, you have to tell us what you want. We can’t ask anyone else. You have to tell us.’ My mother was standing right there and they would not take orders from her.”
Potter suspects her father was taken off the ativan “cold turkey” and, as a result, was suffering effects of withdrawal, including hallucinations. She believes if her father unplugged the tracheotomy tubes, he was hallucinating at the time.
But she’s not wholly convinced it was her father who disconnected the tubes. She and her siblings filed a complaint with the North Augusta Police Department, which referred it to the Long Term Care Ombudsman.
“I want to know if somebody killed him,” Potter told WND. “I’m not looking for revenge. I just want to know what happened to my dad.”
Calls to both the regional and state Long Term Care Ombudsmen were not returned.
Diana Lynne’s powerful, comprehensive book on Terri Schiavo’s life and death, entitled “Terri’s Story: The Court-Ordered Death of an American Woman.” is available at WorldNetDaily’s online store.