Actually, in the doublespeak of conservatorship lingo, the conservator doesn’t actually “kill” or “murder” the conservatee. What she does is make an “end of life decision” for her ward.
Such a decision may involve the disallowal of medicine for a ward who is ill with a treatable disease. When Elizabeth Fairbanks fell ill with pneumonia, conservator Melodie Scott made an “end of life decision” and ordered the withholding of antibiotics and, just to give that little extra push into the grave, okayed that the elderly woman be dosed with morphine. Morphine retards respiration and may, in fact, stop a person’s breathing.
Helpless and without legal standing to intervene, Fairbanks’ children watched in horror as their mother struggled to breathe, then stopped breathing forever.
Fairbanks’ last breath was drawn at a Braswell’s facility. The Braswell’s homes are scattered throughout San Bernardino County, and many of Melodie Scott’s wards have drawn their final breath at one of Braswell’s facilities.
After her attempt was derailed to anonymously admit conservatee Charlie Castle into San Gabriel Valley Medical Center (his whereabouts were discovered and a line of contact with him was established, thereby overriding the anonymity of the admit), Melodie Scott appears to have made one of those “special” decisions about where Charlie’s ride would end, and on August 5 she admitted him into Braswell’s Desert Manor in Yucca Valley.
Immediately, the first step in the “Isolate-Medicate-Euthanize” protocol was invoked. Charlie’s legal right to make and receive phone calls, guaranteed under C.F.R. 483.10 (k) and California Welfare and Institutions Code 5325 (d), was terminated “on the order of the conservator,” according to Megan at Braswell’s. In a case such as Charlie Castle’s, these phone calls may constitute a life-line.
A call was then made to San Bernardino Adult Protective Services and the screener, Tania, refused to take the report, stating that APS has no dominion over those in long-term care facilities.
A call to the San Bernardino County Ombudsman produced an immediate result. A woman who identified herself as Barbara took the report and within a couple of hours, someone from the Ombudsman’s office visited Desert Manor. However, according to the Social Services Director, Megan, the Ombudsman supported the decision of the facility to deny Charlie’s rights to make and receive phone calls.
Another effort to lodge a report with APS was then made and the supervisor, Tatiana Khokhold, stated that the report would not be investigated because Charlie is under a conservatorship. There is no law prohibiting APS from investigating these cases, however.
Ron Buttram, Deputy Director of the San Bernardino County Office on Aging, has declined to comment on either the behavior of the Ombudsman or the refusal of APS to investigate this report and has referred all calls to the Public Information officer, who is out of the office and will return next week.
Calls to the San Bernardino County Courthouse revealed that no one could reveal whether Charlie Castle’s writ of habeas corpus, filed last week, was granted or not. The reason for all this secrecy is that Charlie is under a mental health conservatorship and all this hush-hush business — it is all to protect his privacy. You can thank HIPPA for that perversion of rights and oversight.
In the Administration office of Braswell’s, Chris (who declined to provide his last name) waxed somewhat philosophical over the plight of Charlie Castle and others in his situation. “The facility must make difficult decisions in cases like this,” he said. He admitted awareness of the laws which guarantee the right to make and receive phone calls for residents at facilities like Desert Manor, but asked, “What do you do when a judge issues an order counter to the law?”
You follow the law, I replied.
“But the judge is the law,” said Chris.
Actually, the judge is a man in a long black robe who has taken an oath to uphold the law, but Chris would hear nothing concerning this perception and suddenly reversed his previous statements.
“We do not block a resident from making or receiving phone calls,” he announced cheerfully.
At day’s end, I turned on the tube and listened to Obama’s nomination acceptance speech at the DNC in Charlotte. Repeatedly, President Obama affirmed that we are a country where “everyone plays by the same rules,” as the crowd roared its approval.
He must not have heard about the way they are playing the game out in San Berdo.
Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Janet specializes in issues pertaining to legal corruption and addresses the heated subject of adult conservatorship, revealing shocking information about the relationships between courts and shady financial consultants. She also covers issues relating to international bioweapons treaties. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was published in 2005. She currently resides abroad. You may browse through her articles (and poetry) at janetphelan.com