End-of-life wishes ignored, lawsuit says - FOX 13 News

End-of-life wishes ignored, lawsuit says

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At age 91, Marjorie Mangiaruca lived a long, full life and told her daughter she was ready die when the time came. But when heart stopped, she was not allowed to die a peaceful, natural death, a pending lawsuit says.

Marjorie's daughter, Sharon Hallada, says the "do not resuscitate" order was ignored. The bright yellow form, which anybody can get from Florida's Department of Health, is always supposed to be with a patient. Records show Mangiaruca's doctor, Jose Reinoso, signed off on the DNR.

"I thought that I had all my i's dotted and t's crossed," Sharon said.

She says medical staff told her, "Don't worry, wherever she goes, this will go in her chart."

But something happened that is now the subject of a lawsuit. It started when Marjorie was transferred from Lakeland Regional Medical Center to Oakbridge Healthcare Center in October of 2011. She experienced difficulty breathing, and a few days later was taken back to LRMC by ambulance.

"They told me they had to ventilate her, but couldn't get the tube down her so they had to cut her throat with a tracheotomy," says Hallada. "The EMTs were giving me a rundown of what exactly happened to her, and I said, ‘didn't you have her DNR?' They said we were not aware that she had one."

According to the lawsuit, LRMC didn't send a copy of it when she was transferred to Oakbridge and didn't tell anybody at the nursing home she was a DNR patient. The suit accuses Oakbridge of failing to find out her end-of-life wishes.

It also accuses the hospital and nursing home of failing to properly train staff in this area. Kathryn Tucker is one of the lawyers suing the nursing home and hospital.

"The family did everything right in this case, and still the patient's wishes were not followed," says Tucker, who is the legal affairs director for Compassion & Choices, a national advocacy group for end-of-life rights.

LINK: Compassion & Choices: http://www.compassionandchoices.org

Oakbridge Healthcare Center says it can't comment directly on the case because it is the subject of a lawsuit. But they sent this statement from Administrator Christopher Kmet:

"While we cannot comment on the situation at Oakbridge due to active and on-going litigation, we emphasize our commitment to the safety and well-being of our residents, employees, and the Lakeland community, for which we have had the honor to serve for more than 15 years."

The Public Relations Manager at LRMC, Ashley Link, sent us an email that said, "Because this is an active lawsuit, we are unable to provide a comment at this time."

To add insult to injury, Sharon Hallada's husband Brian says the bills started coming in after Marjorie's death.

"We didn't even get a sorry, and we got bills Sharon received -- bills from the hospital for doing what they weren't supposed to do," he said.

Jeff Badgley is the lead attorney in the case and hopes to bring it to a jury, but says many similar cases never get that far.

"We don't know what the numbers are and that's the problem. I suspect most of these cases get quickly slipped under the rug, but Sharon is brave enough to bring this case, so more energy is directed to this issue," Badgley said.

A few days after her throat was cut open, LRMC followed Sharon's direction to remove the breathing tube.

Marjorie Mangiaruca died five days later in a palliative care unit.

But the damage was done, according to the lawsuit, because she was "robbed of her natural death and instead suffered from prolonged dying in a manner that was contrary and repugnant to her expressed wishes."

"She didn't have to suffer," Sharon said, holding back tears. "The pain never goes away."

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