When The Hospital Wants To Kick You Out

I just read the Tribune story about a woman's refusal to have her elderly mother discharged from Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The hospital is bringing the matter to court, asking a judge to take away the daughter's power of attorney and give it to someone else. The hospital doesn't think the elderly woman, who has inoperable pancreatic cancer, belongs in their care any longer. Her daughter disagrees.

A medical power of attorney gives decision-making power over healthcare to someone else, in the event you are unable to make decisions on your own. It's an easy document to fill out, and it's generally a good idea to have one in place, even if you're healthy. It basically allows you to carry out your wishes even if you are incapacitated and can't voice your opinion.

It's rare for a hospital to sue to revoke a power of attorney. Usually, disputes about power of attorney come up between family members. Either way, it's a sad story. It makes me wonder why the daughter wants her mother to stay in the hospital. Does she really think her mom needs that level of care? Does she think it's better than putting her mother in a nursing home? Is she unable to care for her mother herself as the story suggests?

Although I'm sure the woman cares about her mother, it probably comes down to money. Treating the elderly woman is costing the hospital a lot of money. Medicare won't pay because the hospital stay is not considered medically necessary. The daughter probably can't foot the bill. And nursing home care is expensive, too.

Another issue brought up in the article was the fact that the daughter believes the hospital failed to diagnose her mother's cancer when it was first apparent five months earlier. Whether this is true, it's a separate issue. A lawsuit can be filed to determine whether the hospital is liable for malpractice. But it's not a reason to allow this woman to stay longer. 

I have no idea what the court will decide. Maybe they'll turn power of attorney over to a third party; maybe they'll allow the daughter to remain in charge. Maybe a compromise can be reached. This is just one example of the dilemma of caring for aging parents. It's a story that is going to play out again and again as baby boomers get older.

UPDATE: The daughter, since I wrote this post, agreed to let her mother be discharged.  I still thought it was relevant to discuss which is why I left the post up. 


Legal Tip Of The Day from Chicago lawyer Jennifer Wirth: The DUI-related Secretary of State hearings focus on rehabilitation since your last drug/alcohol-related arrest.  They do not relitigate guilt or innocence on your prior DUI cases.


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