HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Mass General and ALS Patient's Family Reach Settlement

The family of Barbara Howe, a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Massachusetts General Hospital, have ended a two-year battle by agreeing that life-support for Ms. Howe would be withdrawn by June 30, according to an article in Saturday's Boston Globe:

Nurses referred to Howe as a ''war horse" and said she ''wanted everything done to maintain her; including CPR, antibiotics, and ICU." Howe seemed impervious to pain, her family marveled. ''In fact, she'd say to bring it on," [the patient's daughter, Carol] Carvitt's lawyer, Gary Zalkin, is quoted as saying in hospital records.

Carvitt said she has tried to fulfill her mother's wishes and believed she could still hear and maybe see her family. But after Howe's bones broke during routine turning and doctors had to remove her right eye because of corneal damage, her caregivers grew increasingly opposed to keeping her on a ventilator.

Last spring, Smoot refused the hospital's request to overturn Carvitt as her mother's healthcare proxy. But, the judge said, since Howe could not have foreseen all her medical complications, he told Carvitt to refocus from carrying out her mother's wishes to acting in her best interest.

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