How My Son Died in Hospice

Ron Panzer
by Judy Bragg, RN
March 11, 2017
Reproduced with Permission
Hospice Patients Alliance

When my son was diagnosed with leukemia, he entered one of the finest cancer treatment hospitals in the country and though he participated in many treatments, they eventually failed to help him. During his lengthy hospital stay, I drove him home two times so he could visit his family. Judy Bragg, RN and her son, Casey My 43 year-old son, Casey, realized that his condition was not going to improve and decided to spend his last days with his family at home.

During all that time in the hospital, his wife only visited at the very end to make sure that Casey sign all financial powers over to her, have him sign a Do Not Resuscitate order, and name her as his Medical Power of Attorney. She also accompanied him in the ambulance and they arrived home in the early evening. I arrived a few hours later by car.

Though he had no pain requiring morphine, had no psychological issues requiring Haldol, and was allergic to Ativan, the hospice nurse had already visited and left Haldol, Ativan, Morphine and Phenergan, all of which the hospital physician had ordered (and hospice medical director approved). The only medication delivered that he actually did need was the Phenergan topical cream used to treat nausea and vomiting.

Though he was certainly not expected to die from his illness anytime soon, it was only 48 hours from the time hospice became involved till the time he died!

My son had suffered so much through this illness and now that he was home, still was vomiting. He had not been able to keep fluids down for a week and had a fever. As a nurse with over 30 years' experience, I was more experienced in knowing how to care for patients and was able to use the topical phenergan cream to relieve his vomiting soon after I arrived at the home.

His wife had made no effort to help reduce this vomiting by administering the cream! Afterwards, his fever also subsided and thankfully, he slept through the night. I did not leave the room.

The next day, although Pat, the hospice nurse, told Casey that he needed to take Ativan because she thought he was anxious, he refused and told her that he would ask for it if he needed it. He remembered that on one emergency room visit for fever and back pain a few months earlier he was given an injection of Dilaudid and that when he was unable to rest, they also gave him Ativan for sleep. He had an allergic reaction to it and experienced hallucinations for 3 days.

Regarding pain medications, he only occasionally took Flexeril for muscle pain when he needed it. He was not having any other pain and never wanted to take any pain medication. Even when he was at the hospital he did not take any pain medication!

At home, he was now able to drink water and some Sprite without vomiting. He was not confused at all and was feeling better. He was able to get to the bathroom with help, but after sitting on the commode for a while, complained that he was unable to see (possibly from being about to pass out), and we rushed in and lifted him back to his bed.

The hospice nurse started giving him oxygen by nasal cannula, and he improved quickly. A priest arrived and prayed for him and asked if he wanted to take the last rites. He said, "No" since he was not expecting to die soon. His wife continued to press him to have this done and finally he gave in and received them.

He transferred to the hospital bed when it arrived. Casey was feeling much better and was completely alert, so I went to the kitchen for a snack. His wife stayed in the room with him and when I returned to the room, I talked to him and noted that his condition had changed markedly and he seemed confused.

As a Registered Nurse, I am very attuned to changes in patients' conditions. Something had definitely changed. I walked close to his wife to speak with her and she jumped! I told her that he was definitely confused, and she almost shouted at me, "He's Just Fine!!"

She left the room to call hospice and then handed me her phone to have the nurse talk to me - telling me that I had to "back off," that "Casey was in her care" and I was "interfering with her being able to care for him." The hospice nurse also reminded me that his wife "was in control."

Through all of the interactions with hospice and his wife, my weakened son was manipulated and harassed. Since he was very sick and vulnerable, he complied when pressured repeatedly.

I tried to back off and went in and out of the room though I stayed close by. His wife was with him. I did not hear Casey speak at all after that. She was talking to him - though I believe she did this for my benefit since he was actually medically subdued somehow. I know that he had refused the Haldol, morphine and Ativan.

I went into the room and sat down. After a while, his wife's 23 year-old daughter by a previous relationship arrived at 9:20 pm. Casey's wife and step-daughter approached him and at 11:10 pm, his wife administered what I thought to be morphine, telling him that he had pain (though he certainly did not) and to let her make sure she got it well up to his cheek mucosa. She actually laughed as she squirted it into his mouth.

She mocked him as he made sounds from the drug in his mouth. After a few minutes I walked closer to see how he was. He had been sitting up with the head of the hospital bed raised. His eyes were extremely wide open and appeared to be bulging. He had a look of terror on his face!

I knew immediately that she had given him a fatal dose, plus whatever else she gave him initially to subdue him. He still had the oxygen cannula running and this stayed in until he died.

His chest was moving only slightly then as he was barely able to lift his diaphragm. She took a lip moisturizer and applied it to his lips several times. She took a straw and filled it with water, then put it to his lips to make sure water washed the drug down.

I said to my son, "Go to Jesus" and she screamed "SHUT UP!" What followed was horrific! I watched as his eyes went up slowly, up then down, then his head was thrown down to his legs, then back up, up and down again several times. His eyes remained wide open the entire time.

At one point, his left arm went up with the thumb down and then his arm went down to his leg. His body's movements resembled seizures that I've observed in some patients. This lasted overall for what seemed to be about 30 minutes. After that, he just slowly slipped away. His head turned back to the bed with little movement at all, and he finally died at 1:30 am, April 30, 2016. His wife sat quietly staring at him and patting his hand. He never looked at her.

My dear son had died!

After this obvious overdose and imposed death, I went immediately to the police precinct. Officers would do nothing even though I was an eyewitness and also a licensed registered nurse. I went to the main police department and was brushed off by the homicide investigator. At this time, his body had not yet been embalmed.

After 3 calls to the Medical Examiner, an autopsy was finally done 5 days after his death but only after he was embalmed. Although evidence is destroyed by embalming the body, and he certainly did not die from his illness, the report said just the opposite - that he died because of the leukemia!

If evidence is destroyed and there isn't enough evidence to determine what the actual cause was, shouldn't the report state "Cause of Death is Undetermined?" They said only one drug was found by the coroner's office and I do not recall it being prescribed for him. This may be what was used to subdue him.

When his wife and daughter were told there would be an autopsy, they were told they had nothing to worry about.

Even though there are other tests that could have been done to determine what was done to Casey, the Coroner's office policies allow only the next of kin to request these tests, and his wife did not request them. The tests could also be ordered by the Director of Medical Examiners but he did not do so and did not even give me the courtesy of a reply to my request.

I wrote letters to the ACLU requesting their help since my son's civil rights were violated, and he was discriminated against since he was a "hospice patient." I wrote to each of the two police chiefs and the two county district attorneys. I wrote to the city council, and Internal Affairs of the police department, because the police failed to investigate an intentional killing, with an eyewitness. I reported abuse of a disabled person to the Texas Dept of Family and Protective Services. I contacted the State Attorney General.

All of these efforts were futile. They would not act if there wasn't any police investigation or other government office investigation. Usually, an eyewitness to a murder creates the probable cause for the police to open an investigation and gather evidence.

The police never stated why they would not open an investigation. No one stated why they would not even begin to investigate an eyewitness murder but here are the obvious reasons: I believe that no hospice patient is ever murdered in the eyes of the law today.

I believe that no murderer of a hospice patient is ever prosecuted. Because of the overall changes in the mission of hospice (except the few that remain true to the pro-life mission) and the financial incentives to the federal and state governments today - saving billions of dollars in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other services - policies and procedures in most if not all agencies now protect the killers.

Since my son had a Do Not Resuscitate order placed and his wife had the Medical Power of Attorney, no criminal investigation was done. For these several reasons, the police are considered to have done no wrong. No one has to take any action to bring a hospice patient's killer to justice.

A hospice physician that never sees the patient signs off on all the orders, whether they are clinically justified or not. My son had no rights and neither do I.

The public deserves to know what can happen when you agree to have a hospice agency take over your loved one's care. What you are likely to get is a hasty demise with all oversight of the agency blocked. In this hospice and many others, there is no longer any respect for the sanctity of life.

More than that, the police, the district attorneys, and the State officials have no respect for the sanctity of life when it comes to a Hospice patient!

I am now painfully fully aware that this is true.

Note from Ron Panzer, President, Hospice Patients Alliance:

Our heart goes out to Judy Bragg, RN, whose heart is broken by how her son, Casey, was treated. Although he did have a terminal illness, leukemia, he was not expected to die right away at all.

The hospice staff promised to provide routine home care - not to either end his life themselves or allow others to do so! In addition, all medications actually ordered and provided to the family to administer to a patient must be clinically appropriate for the patient's condition . In this case, as it is reported, the patient had no need for strong opioid medications (morphine) or anti-psychotics (Haldol), or a medication that was known to cause severe adverse effects (Ativan/lorazepam)! What kind of clinical assessment was done that he would have these medications at his bedside? It appears from this report that there was none!

Also, if family members or others have ulterior motives, what safeguards are in place to assure that these powerful medications are not diverted or misused to intentionally end life? We have heard of such reports from other family members numerous times, over and over again through the years. What Judy Bragg, RN has reported is reported by thousands of others! She is not alone in this, and we have heard such reports from physicians and other nurses who state that they also have observed similar situations.

We should note that when one individual has the Medical Power of Attorney, other family members may be forced to look on helplessly as their loved one is overdosed or neglected in some way or another. The Medical Power of Attorney can be a very great help in protecting a patient, but it can also be used to railroad a patient into death.

Health care professionals are required by law to first follow the direction of the patient and then the surrogate decision-maker (the Medical Power of Attorney) only if the patient is unable to communicate clearly or at all. When the staff ignore the competent, conscious patient and listen to the individual with the MPOA, they are violating the law, but tragically, that is all too common!

It is true that parents do not have legal control over their adult children's medical care, especially when their children are married. In most cases, that would be fine. However, it was not "fine" when Terri Schiavo's parents were not allowed to take their daughter home to care for her when the husband was intent on discarding her through hospice lethal intervention.

While the entire world was aware, with the well-known pro-euthanasia hospice CEO, Mary Labyak, approvingly looking on, Terri was first admitted to the hospice illegally (because she was not terminally-ill at all) and then was executed at the Suncoast Hospice in Florida. That was the most public hospice killing, but even then they never admitted they killed the victim of years of neglect and abuse ( read the transcripts and medical records to learn what really happened ).

It is vital that every one of us name a pro-life Medical Power of Attorney as patient advocate so if and when we are unable to speak for ourselves, that person who truly cares for us is empowered to speak for us and protect us. In most cases, this Medical Power of Attorney is much more important than any other document because in the moment, it is such an individual who can stop an unneeded medication that could be harmful from being administered. Though such an individual may not be able to protect us in all cases, who else will speak for us when we can't? The MPOA need not be a family member, but needs to be someone who truly loves us and honors our wishes and rights.

I know that there are pro-lifers out there that object to any criticism at all of their friends Wesley Smith or Ira Byock, however, if we do not question each other when we are terribly mistaken, who will do so and help us find our way again?

So, in that spirit, let's take note that contrary to Wesley Smith, JD and Ira Byock, MD's decades-long continuing false assertions that imposed deaths are not occurring in hospice settings, Judy Bragg, RN and thousands of others across the nation say that this is exactly what is happening! In some nations, the imposed deaths occur more frequently in hospital settings, but when they do, it is most often through the use of typically non pro-life palliative care practices.

When will these two, Byock and Smith who call themselves "pro-life," - and who have taken pro-life positions against assisted-suicide, for example - not only admit the truth, but stop actively choosing to lie about what is going on by denying that deaths are being imposed in hospice settings as well as hospitals, nursing homes, and elsewhere?

No matter how much good some consider them to have done, by denying the truth when they know thousands of people trust their assessment of what is going on, they are "opening the door" to the imposed death "chambers" of an increasingly hostile-to-life healthcare setting. In those settings, a healthcare professional or family member can literally impose death and suffer no consequences at all!

Fortunately, more and more individuals are stepping forward publicly to tell the truth so that others can be fore-warned. While we have had such reports for almost 20 years, sadly, most people just walk away and do not speak up at all.

We need leaders to speak the truth, the whole truth , and nothing but the truth. Denials of the truth by supposedly "pro-life leaders" are a disgrace and a betrayal of the great trust so many of us give to them. If they do not speak the truth and actually deny it, what are they? How can we understand that? It would be wonderful if they finally admitted that their previous statements were false.

The family members and the patients, especially, deserve better. We are grateful that Judy Bragg, RN has stepped forward to report her account of what happened to her son!

Note: we have not received any other information from other family members (and would welcome hearing from them), but it is our experience that those who approve of ending life in order to end the suffering of a patient, or for various other reasons, believe that intentional overdoses are perfectly justified. No matter who commits the act, those undeclared "euthanasias" are actually stealth euthanasia exactly because they are not admitted to be imposed deaths and are not recorded as such. If, and when, the patient's life is intentionally ended, the truth remains the truth no matter what lies people tell themselves or others about what happened or what was done.

For more information on the true mission of hospice and the perverse practices that exists in too many hospices today, see the 4-part Wesley Smith, JD and Ira Byock, MD expose . We support the original pro-life mission of hospice!