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Ask Dr. Gott 9/6

Uncooperative mom leaves daughter at a loss

    DEAR DR. GOTT: My mother is almost 81 years old. She has heart disease and a lot of other health problems. I am her primary caretaker.
    My mother often refuses to go to the doctor and gets angry when I insist she go. She signed a paper with her primary physician that he is not to discuss her health with me. I had health care power of attorney when she did this. She later canceled the POA.
    My hands are tied as to her health care. I am the one who takes care of my mother when she is in the hospital. I am the one who sits with her when she is in the emergency room and takes care of matters that need taking care of. I feel her doctor does not have her best health interests at heart.
    When she had congestive heart failure, I called his office four times and told his staff it was an emergency and that I did not know what to do. He never returned my calls, and I ended up calling 911. She was admitted to the hospital through the emergency room.
    I believe that, as her physician, he should not have allowed my mother to sign a paper stating he is not to discuss her health with her primary caretaker. He does know I am her daughter and her caretaker. He also is aware I am the only child living near her, and I am aware of her health conditions. My mother's health conditions are life-threatening ones, yet her doctor seemed to feel it was OK for her to sign this paper. In fact, he was the one who suggested this to her. He allows my mother to manipulate him with her behavior when she is in his office. He does not see the angry, mean and spiteful person she can be at times. The nurses at the hospital often have a hard time dealing with my mother, as she is extremely mean to them, yet when she is in the office, she becomes angelic.
    He does not have hospital privileges, and it is becoming harder and harder for me to get the necessary care my mother needs. This situation has become almost too much for me to deal with. I know the laws concerning a patient's confidentiality have changed. However, have the laws of "first, do no harm" also changed? This doctor is doing more harm than good.
    DEAR READER: There are several issues here, the most significant being your mother's insistence on making decisions regarding her health. Judging from your letter, which I have abridged because of length, I urge you to hire an attorney to sort out the legal ramifications. In part, I am concerned about whether your mother is capable of making health decisions. Is she mentally impaired? If so, how are you to proceed? The lawyer can advise you. Without a resolution, the situation is going to worsen.
    With respect to her doctor's position, he should cooperate with the family, the attorney and, if necessary, the court. I'm sorry that my training does not allow me to provide detailed advice about the legal issues that need to be addressed by appropriate professionals. Start with your attorney.

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