The Indiana household denied the end-of-life hospitalization lawsuit

INDIANAPOLIS – A grieving family prepares to sue the Franciscan Alliance after learning that a new law should have allowed them to visit their loved one before they die.

This patient’s wife says it is clear that he is near the end of his life, but the hospital refused to let her see her in person.

His sister-in-law Beth Tollison agreed to speak on camera for the family on Friday.

“She just wanted to be with him and he wanted to be with her too,” said Tollison. “He kept telling her, I’m waiting for you, I’m waiting for you.”

Jim Houpt’s dying wish to see his wife was never granted because the Franciscan Alliance would not allow it.

“He’s been in the hospital for about a week,” said Tollison.

When he was admitted, he had COVID-19. Franciscan Health’s visiting policy states that end-of-life patients can have a visitor in a patient’s room even during the pandemic. For patients with COVID-19, this visitor must wear all personal protective equipment. Tollison said her sister did anything to see him one last time.

She doesn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed this last visit.

“He was near the end of his life before the COVID diagnosis because he had pulmonary fibrosis,” Tollison said. “They called my sister every day and said we can’t keep his blood oxygen saturation outside of the 60’s and 70’s, which is very low and very dangerous.”

She said even the hospital told his wife he couldn’t make it but still wouldn’t allow a visit.

“She begged and pleaded, I was there for some time when she phoned anyone she could possibly find to contact begging and pleading to have a visit with him,” said Tollison.

Franciscan Health wouldn’t tell us why this patient didn’t get a visitor.

A Franciscan spokesman sent a statement with the words: “Since the pandemic began in mid-March 2020, our hospital has had visitor restrictions. Due to state and state regulations governing the disclosure of our patients’ personal health information, we are unable to comment. “

The family didn’t get any answers either.

“The only thing she was told was that they wouldn’t allow him to get out of isolation,” said Tollison.

After denying countless pleas a few hours earlier, she said the hospital called to say he had died.

“And that’s when they offered her a visit,” said Tollison. “Which was just offensive in a way.”

State Senator Linda Rogers believes that her law, Senate Enrolled Act 202, which went into effect last week, should have required the hospital to allow a visit.

“My heart goes out to this family and that is why the legislation was written,” said Rogers.

There is currently no penalty for hospitals that fail to comply with this law.

“They hope people will obey the law, but certainly when we find that there are still significant problems with hospitals choosing not to obey the law, or long-term care facilities that may come in the future when that People don’t want to meet this, ”said Sen. Rogers.

However, Rogers said it could take legal action. This family plans to sue with the hope that it will help others avoid this pain.

“This has to stop,” said Tollison. “I think they need to understand that there will be a penalty for ignoring obvious signs that someone is at the end of their life because they just don’t sense that person is going to die in the next few hours. You need to put some pressure on this decision to realize that you cannot wait until the last minute. It was too late and they can’t fix it now. She can never get that time back with him. “

We asked Franciscans what an end-of-life situation represents.

“While we are unable to go into the details of any particular case, the end-of-life determination is usually based on the directions of the clinical teams involved in patient care,” said spokesman Joe Stuteville.

Rogers advised the family to report this case to the Department of Health. She is confident that the department will make sure they are aware of this and that they are following the law.

Tollison said her sister had already done the report.

“I don’t know the details of this conversation, but they said we can’t necessarily tell you that action will be taken because of it, but we took note,” said Tollison. “It wasn’t really encouraging.”

We contacted the ISDH to confirm and find out the next steps. “I’m sorry, but we cannot comment on individual cases,” said an ISDH spokesman.

The family also wants to emphasize the importance of simply searching online for hospital visit guidelines now before admitting a loved one. They realized after the fact that nearby hospitals have much less strict COVID-19 visiting rules.

“It’s hard to understand how one hospital can be as far from another hospital as they would allow,” Tollison said.

Regardless of policy, this new law should protect all Hoosier patients from dying on their own.

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