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June 19, 2005

The closest thing to an update on Scott Thomas

Topics: News

Two recent rather different Internet items provide some updated information on the case of Scott Thomas, the 34-year-old Florida man injured under undetermined circumstances last fall and currently in his mother's care. Scott's mother obtained emergency guardianship after she learned of her daughter-in-law's plans to take Scott to hospice and (she believes) there to have him dehydrated to death.

One of these items is a press release from Christian News Wire dated June 16. The other is a news story from News 4, a Jacksonville news station. (HT to KC at Extreme Truths for the News 4 article.)

Here are some notable points (in no particular order) from the two stories.

1) From the press release: A hearing is set for mid-July on Scott's guardianship. No specific date appears, nor have I been able to find any information on a specific date for a hearing, despite many e-mails sent to people who might know. A guardianship hearing was initially scheduled for June 3; it was moved to June 8, but I have been able to get no information on what, if anything, happened on the 8th. Apparently Scott is still in his mother's custody at least until the July hearing. It would be good to know when that will be; if any reader can get sourced information on that date, please post it in the comments thread.

2) From the press release: Scott is now eating several different kinds of soft foods by mouth and drinking from a straw, though he receives some of his nutrition by tube. This is great news and may provide Scott with some protection from any later attempt to dehydrate him to death. It also casts doubt on a claim in the News 4 article that Scott "requires a feeding tube to survive." Perhaps he could not receive sufficient nutrition from mouth feeding alone, but that is by no means clear, and the "requires a feeding tube to survive" phrase sounds like media exaggeration to my ears.

3) From the press release: Although Scott's mother was galvanized to seek guardianship of him from nurses' reports of his wife's intention to take him to hospice, it appears that the actual argument made in court last fall did not include this concern. Rather, it was apparently based on the fact that there was a police investigation on-going (as there still is) into the possibility of foul play in Scott's original injuries. (This police investigation may have been initiated by Scott's mother. It apparently was not spontaneous.) This means that the judge may never have been told of the present danger to Scott and may not be able to rule on the basis of that concern unless further evidence is presented to him. See the next item.

4) From the News 4 article: Scott's wife indignantly denies having ever intended to have his feeding tube removed, though she acknowledges(through her lawyer) that she did "look into hospice care" for him. Some light is cast on her statements by the press release, in which Scott's mother says that she was told by nurses last fall that the wife had gotten in touch with hospice and that he would be "dead in 4 to 10 days" if he were taken there. It sounds to me as if the concern arose (perhaps entirely legitimately) from what the nurses believed it meant for someone in Scott's situation to be taken to hospice, rather than from documented statements by Scott's wife. We do know from the Mae Magouirk case that people who are not even on feeding tubes can receive drugs in hospice that are strong enough to make them unable to take substantial nutrition, at which point they become severely dehydrated despite the administration of small amounts of fluids, ice chips, etc. And might the hospice in question here simply have not administered tube feeding as a matter of protocol? We don't know; that is just a conjecture, but in that case perhaps the wife would not have needed to request specifically that the tube be removed.

Since the wife is contesting the claim that she was intending to have his feeding tube removed, I strongly suggest that the mother and her lawyer document anything they can that is relevant to that claim. I also suggest that they document fully the fact that Scott should not be a candidate for hospice in any event and that taking him there would be entirely inappropriate (illegal?) as he is not in any sense "terminal" or "dying."

In any event, if the wife denies trying to have his tube removed, this may be a blessing in disguise, as such a public denial will make it harder for her to claim later that she knows that this is what he "would have wanted," that she is obligated to pursue it, or anything of that sort.

5) From the News 4 article: Scott's mother and wife may eventually be given co-guardianship of him. News 4 claims to have obtained "court documents" indicating this. They do not say what those documents are, nor from when they are. Could these documents have to do with something that was discussed on June 8?

If indeed Scott's wife was intending to have him put into a "no substantial nourishment" situation at hospice, a co-guardianship arrangement between her and his mother would be a lot better than an arrangement that gave his wife entire control over his care. So I take this, with some caution, as good news of a sort.

6) From the press release: Scott is improving and is able to say a few words.

7) From the press release: Scott's mother still apparently believes there is serious danger that her daughter-in-law will gain full custody and have Scott dehydrated to death. I do not know what her evidence is for this fear, but the press release has a much more alarmed tone than the news article.

In fact, the press release says that the mother has brought in Randall Terry to try to save Scott. It seems to me that this may not be the best strategic idea, especially if there is still hope of the mother's retaining guardianship or even protecting Scott by way of co-guardianship through ordinary legal channels. The judge showed good judgement by giving the mother guardianship last fall. If he is given all the relevant information here (including something mentioned in some of the original articles in The Empire Journal--Scott's clear aversion to his wife since the accident) he may well rule quite sensibly. It must be stressed that the judge cannot rule on anything that is not formally presented to him in evidence.

I do have one other piece of information. Hospice Patients Alliance has distributed an e-mail request, which I reproduce here, for people to help "watch Scott." I assume that this means merely that Scott's mother needs additional help with care-giving, and I have not received a response to an e-mail asking for more details, so I simply reproduce the e-mail:

From: User204014@aol.com
Subject: Scott Thomas
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2005 09:56:48 EDT
To: patientadvocates@hospicepatients.org
I am attempting to help fill a need for the Scott Thomas
family. They need volunteer help watching Scott. Do you know of any organizations(he is in Jacksonville) that provide this kind of help--- or of any retired nurses etc... who might want to help out?

Please contact Pam Hennessy if you can help.

In this case I am more in need of receiving information than a source of new information. I've tried to bring together here everything known as of now, but I welcome additional information from readers, especially if any of you have personal contact with any of the people in the case.

Cross-posted at Truth & Action.

Posted by lydia at June 19, 2005 2:56 PM

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