Lawsuit Highlights Problems With DNR Orders
USA Today on Tuesday profiled the case of Madeline Neumann, a Florida woman with Alzheimer's disease whose granddaughters filed a lawsuit against her nursing home and physician because they did not follow her do-not-resuscitate order.
The lawsuit, filed in 1997 and likely to proceed to trial early next year, alleges that the Joseph Morse Geriatric Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Jaimy Bensimon, the chief physician at the facility, committed battery against Neumann when they failed to follow her DNR order after she collapsed. In addition, the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges breach of contract and negligence.
Attorney James Nosich, who represents Bensimon, said that Bensimon decided to send Neumann to the hospital rather than follow her DNR order because he was not at the nursing home at the time she collapsed and sought to have her condition evaluated.
According to USA Today, the lawsuit has received national attention and might have "significant implications for efforts to hold hospitals, nursing homes and physicians accountable if they disregard living wills and advance directives."
Lois Shepherd, a law professor at Florida State University who specializes in health care law and end-of-life issues, said, "We've been lulled into this sense of security that all you need to do is have an advance directive. But it's not as simple as that. They're clumsy documents and vague. They can't predict all conditions."
Nosich said, "At the end of the day, when the (emergency) phone call comes in, do you want your doctor, before letting you die, to have you evaluated? Or do you let a nonmedical professional give your doctor the information and have him rely on that?" Nosich added, "If you call 911, you get sued. If you don't call, you get sued" (Parker, USA Today, 12/19).