An emergency hearing has been scheduled by an Indiana judge to review the case of a gravely ill 88-year-old man, Paul G. Smith, a retired attorney and former Hamilton County magistrate who is the subject of a family dispute over his medical care.
The hearing was requested one of Smith’s daughters, Susan Rissman, and is set for Wednesday at 9 a.m. before Hamilton Superior Court Judge Steve Nation.
The Indianapolis Star reports that in a motion filed Monday, Rissman contends that her father’s life “may be lost and, at the very least, his physical health is deteriorating due to the conditions of his care.”
Rissman says her father was removed last week from a ventilator that helped ease his breathing. She also says nutrition supplied through a feeding tube was stopped the following day.
Both actions apparently were based on directives from Smith's living will and another of his daughters.
Tim Stoesz, an attorney representing Rissman, said he has also requested “in the strongest terms possible” that St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital “take all measurers to keep Mr. Smith alive until the hearing Wednesday, including hydrating him and providing him nutrition.”
The petition asks Judge Nation to appoint a guardian for Smith. The motion says that Rissman has been Smith’s longtime caregiver, and she “believes, and will introduce evidence” that Smith wants her appointed as his guardian. It also says Smith “wishes to revoke his living will declaration and health care representative” authority that was granted to his other daughter, Judity Sly, in legal documents Smith signed in 2004.
Meanwhile, St. Vincent Hospital officials have declined comment on the specifics of the case, citing patient confidentially regulations, although they issued a statement Monday.
“As a faith-based hospital, we are committed to serving all persons, and ensuring that we respectfully attend to the medical needs of our patients,” the statement said. “We affirm the personal dignity of every human being does not change even if seriously ill or disabled. According to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, it is our responsibility to conduct a thorough medical evaluation of patients’ ability to tolerate food and hydration, assess the effectiveness in prolonging life, and take into consideration patients’ capacity to make their own healthcare decisions. We will remain dedicated to providing exemplary care, and honor patients’ autonomy by abiding by the wishes they express regarding their health care.”
The Indianapolis Star reports that Rissman had been at her father’s bedside almost constantly since he was hospitalized on Christmas Day, but St. Vincent officials escorted Rissman out Sunday after her concerns about Smith’s care were reported in The Star. Rissman said she was told she is permanently banned from returning to the hospital.
The hearing set for Wednesday isn’t the first for this family dispute over Smith’s care, which started last year when Sly filed a petition in November asking to be named Smith’s guardian in order to extend her authority over his affairs beyond the existing powers of attorney and health care representative designation.
In response, Christina Trent, an attorney for Smith, filed a motion that stated Smith said he wanted Rissman to be his guardian.