Thanks to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog for reporting here on a Florida trial involving a nursing home’s failure to honor a patient’s living will. Of course, it is now impossible to mention any sort of dispute involving living wills without considering the implications of the Terry Schiavo case (the definitive historical record of this case was compiled here by Florida blogger Matt Conigliaro). As the following excerpt from Jury: Home violated living will reveals, Ms. Schiavo’s tragedy continues to reverberate through Flroida’s courts.
In Florida’s first prolongation-of-life trial, jurors found that the Joseph L. Morse Geriatric Center in West Palm Beach failed to honor the living will and advance directive of Madeline Neumann, a 92-year-old Alzheimer’s patient who stipulated that she did not want to be kept alive by artificial means.
The jury found that Morse Geriatric should pay $150,000 in damages. But the panel declined to find Morse’s former medical director, Dr. Jaimy Bensimon, negligent for his role in Neumann’s prolonged death.
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Awareness of advance directives and self-determination has improved since the time of Neumann’s death, said Jim Nosich, Bensimon’s attorney.
"I think Terri Schiavo beat this case to the punch in terms of education," he said, referring to the Pinellas County woman whose case sparked a national debate on end-of-life issues.
Education and awareness — not money — was at the heart of Neumann’s case, according to attorneys Jack Scarola and Marnie Poncy, who represented Scheible, Neumann’s granddaughter and health-care surrogate.
"We undertook this case because of the importance of those legal issues," Scarola said. "The verdict confirmed the accuracy of this message."
The Schiavo case became a game of political football, according to Scarola, overshadowing the rights of health-care self-determination.
"Madeline Neumann is everybody’s grandparent, everybody’s parent," Scarola said. "This is what we can expect to happen to every single one of us. Nursing homes are now on notice that there are economic consequences to their neglect of these responsibilities."