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Importance of Patient Advocacy


If you have a family member with any kind of vulnerability, a drug problem, or in rehab, step in right away and stay in contact with them, and be an active advocate for their care. My brother was admitted to a South Coast hospital for heart failure, and was in Intensive Care for 10 days when a doctor ordered a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order and removed all life support without any family notification or attempt to locate his family.

My 50-year-old brother had been in rehab trying to get his life together. The hospital did not follow its own policies of notifying the patient or family (or a surrogate) prior to making the decision to remove life support. My brother had an adult son and grandchildren, a sister and two brothers, yet none of us were notified he was in the hospital. There was no record of a case worker being assigned to help locate his family.

It was a year later, on the Internet, that I learned my brother had died and where. I obtained his records and immediately called the police to locate his adult son to see if he had been notified, which he had not. It took the police approximately 15 minutes to locate his son out of state. I filed a complaint with the State Department of Public Health. It took two years before they started an investigation. The agency’s investigator found that the hospital violated its own policies by not informing the family or documenting anything concerning efforts to notify the family.

Public Health assured me the complaint would become public record, which would have given me some closure. But the complaint was never posted on its website, and I was informed that people had to notify the department and request the complaint in order to see it. Kind of putting the cart before the horse, isn’t it?

So be warned; if you have family members who may be vulnerable, keep in contact, prepare a Healthcare Directive, and if they are in the hospital, be an active advocate for their health care to make sure their rights and life are protected.

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