Family Learns Painful Lesson About Life Support

Friday, April 6th 2007, 10:29 am

By: News On 6

It's a heart-wrenching decision, whether to put a loved one on life support or let them go. It's also a legal issue more and more families are facing. Did the person voice their wishes? Did they write them down? What if those wishes change at the last minute? Family members say 73-year-old George Basks' health has been declining for a decade. Basks suffers from Parkinson's, dementia and congestive heart failure. The News On 6’s Heather Lewin reports he was hospitalized for fluid in his lungs and suddenly took a turn for the worse.

“We got a phone call saying he could no longer breathe on his own," said Basks’ daughter Misty Moore.

Family members thought this was the end, but then learned the hospital was putting him on a respirator.

“We were against it completely because my father was always one that said he didn't want it," said Moore.

Years before, Basks signed papers putting his wife in charge and listing himself as “do not resuscitate”. The family thought everything was in order. Basks' wife had power of attorney, but it didn't specify for coverage of medical issues. They learned, even if they had that, the final word is still the patient's if she or he is coherent and able to talk to doctors. When Basks was admitted, doctors say he told them to save his life.

“It is not unusual for patients to change their mind, and people certainly have that right," said Dr. Karen Gribbin of Muskogee VA Hospital. "This particular patient clearly told us that he wanted everything done."

“If somebody's gasping for air, they get scared in that moment,” said Moore. “He might have said he wanted help, you know."

The family has stopped fighting and is now working with doctors to make Basks more comfortable. His condition has improved since he was put on life support.

“Our primary responsibility as health care providers is to be the advocate for the patient," said Gribbin.

“A lot of people sit down and tell their families what they want like my father did, and he stressed to us over the years what he wanted, but in the end we don't get to give him what he wants," said Moore.

After a meeting between family and doctors, Basks is now listed as “do not resuscitate”. He's still on life support, but if any complications arise, no further steps will be taken. Doctors encourage everyone to have a living will with an advance directive making your wishes clear on medical treatment.

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