It is Euthanasia and it echoes the Schindler-Schiavo case

Eluana Englao, a vivacious young woman has allegedly been in a PVS since a care crash in 1992. She receives nourishment through a feeding tube (in other words she is breathing on her own). Her father claims that Eluano was opposed to being kept alive artificially, but in reality what does that mean? The provision of food and water through a feeding tube can hardly be called keeping a person artificially alive. On the other hand, I would argue that being hooked to a machine to help the person breathe, or keep the heart pumping is a different matter and would fall under the "keeping someone artificially alive" rule.

I have not seen a lot about this case. I do not know if this woman had the same level or ability as Teri (even though the MCS of Teri was denied). Therefore, I cannot comment upon certain aspects of this case.

What the court did in this case is also wrong because unless this is a written request no one can say for certain that she would not want to be fed. Regardless, where I object to the proposals is the claim that once the tubes are withdrawn Miss Englaro would not feel a thing. That is an outright lie and it is one that needs to be consistently challenged until people understand the precise pain of someone who is healthy being forced to die in such a fashion. Forcing someone to become dehydrated is totally inhuman and expecting the person to last up to two weeks in that conditions is extremely cruel.

Well, the Italian government has stepped in again in an effort to stop the murder by cruelty of this young woman. This action will cause problems in Italy because the President is opposed to the action but the Parliament will continue to move to prevent the murder taking place.

If we have learned anything from the shabby way that Teri Schindler was treated by her adulderous, murderous husband it is the fact that death by dehydration and starvation is anything but pretty. It is a disgusting way to die and it should be opposed.

If this woman had been hooked to breathing apparatus and the removal meant a quick death because she could not breathe on her own then that would be a very different story.


Turning to other states for a remedy for guardianship abuse

Los Angeles Times writers: Robin Fields, Jack Leonard and Evelyn Larrubia had done an excellent job in highlighting a variety of abuses within the Los Angeles system. It is by a stroke of luck that I have a copy of their article that followed the series of articles written in 2005 on this subject.

Back in October 2001 an unsigned letter arrived at the Arizona Supreme Court. It was alleged in that letter that a professional guardian, the director of a non-profit Tuscon firm was stealing from his elderly and disabled clients.

After the letter was received the court’s fiduciary unit sprang into action. The manager of the unit interviewed the firm’s employees and started digging through court records and boxes of cancelled cheques. It was discovered that the guardian had taken nearly $3000 from a developmentally disabled man for an electric bed that was never purchased, and the same client paid $1000 for a fundraising dinner never attended. To the credit of the unit it took 2 months to have enough documentary evidence to issue an emergency suspension of the guardian’s license. The license was later revoked. The work of the unit also triggered a criminal investigation by the state attorney general’s office, which led to felony theft charges against the guardian.

Without a doubt if the unregulated California system had the same set of procedures in place then the professional conservators could be held accountable for the theft of the possessions of their clients. The problem in California is that there is no agency that is responsible for investigating the complaints against these agencies.

The Los Angeles Times reporters in their excellent investigation discovered that professional conservators often gain legal authority over elderly people without their knowledge or consent, taking control of their lives at jarring speed. Some of these conservators neglected their wards, isolated them from relatives and ran up excessive fees. Others used their new found power over the seniors’ estates to benefit themselves, their employers and friends. The state’s probate courts which are charged with monitoring their work, overlooked incompetence, neglect and outright theft.

The State of California has been left with a system in tatters, especially when the underfunded public guardian’s office was forced to turn away seniors referred to them for protection. What California lacks is the legislation to put an oversight authority in place.

Dave Jones, a member of the Assembly in California and a former legal aid attorney has put forward a bill that follows the lead taken by Arizona. The proposal was to license professional conservators, and create a state regulatory board to oversee them. It would also require the courts to audit their work. Jones also wanted to create an ombudsman program for seniors under conservatorship similar to the one for nursing home patients.

Other steps being taken include the Judicial Council of California establishing a task force to study laws on conservatorship. The focus really needs to be on emergency conservatorships, looking at both the rules and the judges’ discretion in how the rules are applied.

There are many issues that have been highlighted, thanks to the Los Angeles Times, and those issues are quite disturbing for those involved. The judges have been granting the emergency appointment on the day that the professional conservators ask for them – and without hearing from the part involved. What has been ignored by these judgements is that adults are entitled to attend the emergency proceedings and in most cases the people involved were not even formally notified of the proceedings. The judges were guilty of waiving the requirement after the conservators claimed the prospective clients were too feeble or weak to attend court. Seniors were often placed in the hands of these unscrupulous conservators before attorneys were assigned to represent them, or court investigators could assess whether the conservatorship was in fact needed.

This situation has been remedied in Texas where the law requires that prospective wards are given notice of emergency guardianships and that they must be assigned attorneys before courts can rule on their cases – that is a very big step in the right direction. In practice, in Texas the new rules have almost eliminated emergency guardianships. When seniors are at risk, Adult Protective Services seeks strictly defined temporary authority to get them medical care or restraining orders to stop suspected thieves from accessing their bank accounts.

Other issues that need to be considered with regard to reform include:

  1. limiting the power of guardians;
  2. ensuring that prospective wards mental capacity is properly evaluated;
  3. full medical evaluation of the prospective ward;
  4. ensuring the finance is available to put in place a proper regulatory system.

The elderly within society deserve better treatment than what has been conveyed in the reports done by the Los Angeles Times. It would be interesting to see if there have been further developments – something that prevents a Schiavo situation where the husband wants his wife dead and the probate judge rolls over and agrees to legal murder.


Veteran's Affairs conservator mentioned in LA Times articles has been arraigned

One of the conservators who was of interest to the reporters of the LA Times who did such a wonderful job of investigation and exposure of the abuses and defrauding of the elderly is an ex-nurse by the name of Anne Chavis. This woman had absolutely no experience looking after the financial affairs of others when she was asked by Veteran's Affairs to become a guardian of veterans. The Los Angeles Times series in November covered a number of conservators who have caused the families of elderly men and women a lot of grief. The Los Angeles Times has now reported that Anne Chavis has been arraigned on charges of defrauding her clients.

Since this is now a legal matter it is not wise to comment further about the case. Needless to say, I do think that the reporters at the Los Angeles Times have been of real service to the elderly and their families who have been abused by the likes of Ms Chavis, her former attorney, Brian Smith, and her colleague who had also engaged in fraudent and deceptive practices.

The worst thing about Ms. Chavis is the way in which she used Christianity to cover up her own wrongdoing. She even started up a church that has no doubt benefited from money that she took from her charges.


Families also abuse the vulnerable

One of the arguments that I heard constantly regarding the Schiavo case was that Michael as guardian had the right to determine whether or not Terri should live or die. As I have stated through my comments in this and other blogs, I strongly disagree with that form of logic. There are several cases that highlight this situation. From Michigan, New York, California and Florida, the outcry against these guardians is growing. The most vulnerable members of society would have to be the men and women who suffer brain damage, either through the devastating effects of a car accident, or through dementia caused by old age, or even by a stroke.

The decision making process upon whether a person should be allowed to live or die should only be necessary where life support equipment, such as a ventilator is being used to sustain the life of a person who is dying. No matter how it is dressed up, it is inappropriate for families to be making decisions that will end the life of an elderly member of the family and only on the grounds that the upkeep of that person is too expensive. The life of the elderly member has become expendable and for that reason it seems that guardians or conservators are willing to make decisions that will help line their pockets with the wealth of the ward. If the Schiavo case had been plain sailing, that is there had not been any form of family intervention and effort to save Terri's life, then Michael Schiavo stood to inherit over 1/2 million dollars from Terri's estate. His motivation, on the surface, happened to be that he claimed that there was no way that Terri would recover. However, underneath the surface there was that money that had been won so that Terri would receive treatment. I certainly believe that the money from the lawsuit was the reason that Michael Schiavo fought so hard to kill his wife. There are other reasons and I have been looking at those reasons on my other blogs.

The Schiavo case is the tip of the iceberg. I think that I should start witha few cases within my family history that indeed highlight the difficulties faced by the elderly and the mentally incapacitated. The first case I want to highlight is that of my aunt Julia Liddell. My aunt was not able to have children, but her sister (the aunt that I never knew) had a son, and this child was adopted by Uncle Stan and Aunty Julia. The man in question was a good man, and certainly he had a good relationship, with his cousins, that is my father and uncle Allan. When my aunt had a stroke she was placed in a nursing home. Now, it was difficult for the families to visit my aunt because she lived on the other side of Melbourne. Certainly, before the stroke we used to see her on a regular basis, and I have always remembered this aunt with a lot of fondness. She always made it known that John, Uncle Allan and my father were to be the beneficiaries of her estate. However, there was a woman, on the other side of the Liddell family who worked at keeping my father and his cousin and brother away from my aunt. In this case she somehow gained control over my aunt's affairs, and she went to the next step - she had a stranger who is a solicitor draw up a will, which my aunt allegedly signed that cut out the three who were to be the beneficiaries and left her as the heir. This will was not challenged, yet it was clearly illegal because my aunt was not of sound mind at the time that the signature was obtained. Although this story is not one of guardianship abuse as in the Schiavo style, it is definitely a situation where someone has taken advantage of one who is weaker than herself.

The next story is that of my grandmother. At the time of Nana's death due to a series of heart attacks, Nana was close to 99 years of age. My late aunt Nancy, and her son had too much influence over my grandmother. My cousin gained the power of attorney over my grandmother, even though he was not the oldest grandchild, and there were three living children who should have had the legal right to having the power of attorney. My cousin was not altogether honest about how he dealt with my grandmother's estate, and he refused to hand back a painting that belonged to my mother. An adopted cousin stole a ring that belonged to my mother, but that is a story that lies outside of this one. When my grandmother was thought to not be able to look after herself my grandmother's house was sold from under her and she was placed in a nursing home. She hated that place and she used to plead with my mother to take her away from it, and she wanted to come and live with my mother. The staff at the nursing home neglected their charges, and this particular home has now been closed down due to the lack of professionalism of the staff. My mother tried to warn my grandmother that my cousin was trying to "diddle" her estate. She had a huge fight with my grandmother over a situation that had developed. My cousin used his influence over my grandmother to seek a change in the will that cut my mother out of her share of the estate. If anyone really cared about my grandmother, it was my late sister, for she used to visit on a regular basis and she did the little things that were necessary to look after an old lady. My cousin never did any of those things. He refused to have my grandmother in his home, and all he wanted was her estate so that he would have more money. He did a lot of horrible things and he set my mother's brother and sister against her with a litany of lies. My cousin was extremely manipulative when it came to this particular situation. He abused my grandmother through his lack of ensuring that she was placed in the best possible facitlity. I am not sure how much of the estate he squandered, so one day it will all catch up upon him.

There is one more case that I want to highlight, not because of any abuse either, but as an illustration of the pressure that is placed upon families to follow the recommendations of the medical staff, even if these go beyond the religious and moral values of the family. My father is not a Catholic, but he certainly valued the right to life. Anyway, my father suffered a stroke two days before his birthday. My mother was not home at the time, and it was my brother who found him and called the ambulance. The stroke caused my father to suffer brain damage of the type that caused him to be rather unruly in his behaviour. He was a very difficult patient. Anyway, after the first stroke he was allowed to come home. However, he refused to recognize my sister, Linda, as a member of the family. He was able to go home and he functioned as a member of the family but it was obvious that he had suffered brain damage. When my father suffered a second very serious stroke he was staying at Phillip Island, and he was rushed to the hospital at Wonthaggi until his transfer to the Monash medical centre. The doctors at the Wonthaggi hospital began the pressure to get my mother to agree to place a DNR on my father's chart. She refused that pressure and the family stood by that refusal. When he was removed to the Monash Medical Centre, the pressure became more intense and my family continued to resist this pressure. Eventually, after my father was placed in a nursing home, he had another stroke that caused his death. The doctors at the Monash Medical Centre refused to give him further treatment.

I have highlighted my father's story in this blog because of the way in which the whole family pulled together to protect my mother as she resisted the pressure of the doctors and the social workers involved in my father's case. The pressure that is placed upon families to make decisions that will end their lives is immense. Sometimes the prognosis that is given is one that leads to a wrong decision that is an attempt to end the life of someone who requires life support for a time. Take for example, the case of Haleigh Poutre, the twelve year old who received terrible injuries from a bashing she received at the hands of her now deceased aunt and adopted mother. The doctors who examined Haleigh did not give her a chance at survival, but Haleigh has proved those doctors to be wrong. In Haleigh's case, the adopted mother was murdered by Haleigh's grandmother, who then killed herself. Haleigh's mother was contacted and she consented to the idea that Haleigh should be withdrawn from life support, even though the child had not been given the chance to show whether she had the ability to recover. This child was placed into the hands of the Boston department of Social Security, and the public guardian did not waste time requesting the withdrawal of the life support. The judge in this case was too quick in making a decision that would allow the support to be withdrawn. However, Haleigh is a fighter and she has rallied to the point that she has been removed to another hospital where rehabilitation is given to children. The guardian in this case had not done his or her duty by the child who was incapacitated prior to her rallying revival. Everyone was too quick in trying to end this child's life. The biological mother did not care whether the child lived or died, and the only one who cared for her well being is the man who has been charged with causing her actual bodily harm. He faced being charged with murder if she had been allowed to die, yet he is the only one who fought for this child to ensure that she was given the chance to live. The question remains: what will happen to Haleigh once she has been allowed to recuperate? At the moment the child is a ward of the state, and she is subjected to the possibility of further abuse unless her future is secured.


Justice Sleeps While Seniors Suffer - Los Angeles Times

Justice Sleeps While Seniors Suffer - Los Angeles Times

This is part two of a four part investigation by reporters from the Los Angeles Times. The first part of this report concentrated upon a group of conservators who had not put the needs of their clients first. Instead those conservators had deliberately robbed the estates of their clients, thus causing angst with the conservatee as well as amongst the conservatee's family members.

Once a guardian or conservator is appointed it is extremely difficult for the ward to have the conservatorship lifted. The reason for this difficulty lies not with the conservator or guardian but in the way in which the probate judges have been failing in their duty to do what is right and just for the sake of all parties involved in a dispute. This failure is the subject of the headline of the report - justice sleeps whilst seniors suffer.

Prior to moving on to a discussion on the cases brought up by the Los Angeles Times, I want to recap again on the guardianship issues surrounding the Schiavo case because much of the criticism of that case is relevant where these other cases are concerned. When Terri Schiavo collapsed and ended up in hospital, on life support for a short time, her unfaithful husband ensured that he had full guardianship over Terri by pulling a rather nasty little stunt. He had his boss from the restaurant, who was also a lawyer, make contact with Mr. and Mrs Schindler, telling them that it was in their daughter's best interest to sign over guardianship to Michael. He then went into court and gained the emergency guardianship over his wife's affairs. What then transpired is that Terri was weaned off the life support and after a month she was listed by the doctor as being awake - which in medical terminology means that she was not comatose, neither was she a vegetable. When Terri was discharged from Humana hospital she was not comatose but she required further nursing care and she was placed in a facility that was to help her with rehabilitation. It was around this time that Michael Schiavo, who was the only one who had access to her medical records, decided to sue Terri's doctors based upon what is now proved to be false information that she had a heart attack brought on by bulimia. The truth happened to be that Terri did not suffer a heart attack and she was not a bulimic. The purpose of this lawsuit was to use Terri in an effort to make money out of her condition. Schiavo actually expected to get $20 million for the injuries to his wife, the cause of which has never been determined. After lying to the courts, Schiavo won his case and was awarded $750,000 for Terri's care as well as a further $630,000 for loss of consortium. As soon as the money had been deposited into an account for his wife, Schiavo placed a DNR on her chart and ordered that all therapy was to cease. The nursing staff had testified that they were in trouble if they even placed a face washer into Terri's hands. They were not allowed to give any form of manipulation that might have helped the recovery of this woman from her brain injuries. Schiavo filed to end his wife's life by removing her PEG tube. There is a lot of behind the scenes action in this case and it is not my intention to mention all of that here. What is relevant however, is that the first Guardian Ad Litem who was appointed, Richard Pearse, wrote a report which in part indicated that there was a conflict of interest in the situation that had arisen, and that Michael Schiavo should be removed as Terri's guardian. Instead of the judge acting upon this report, the Guardian ad Litem was dismissed, and in an unprecedented move, the probate judge, George Greer, appointed himself as the Guardian Ad Litem. At no time did Greer ever go and see Terri. He relied instead upon the lies of George Felos and Michael Schiavo. It must be pointed out that there are a number of irregularities in this case that were never addressed by the justice system. Every review that took place claimed that Greer had acted within the narrow confines of the law. What was missing in these reviews happened to be a discussion of the merits of the issues within the case. At every turn the Schindlers were rebuffed and they could not get any investigation into what really took place on the morning that Terri collapsed. There is still reason to believe that Michael Schiavo had a hand in that collapse.

This case was such a shambles that it pointed to the lack of justice within the American judicial system with the regard of the rights of the elderly and the disabled are concerned. It pointed up what can only be described as corruption within the judicial system. This case reinforces the LA Times headline that justice sleeps whilst seniors suffer (except that the woman concerned was not a senior, for she was under 50 when she died, and only 25 when she was injured). The probate judge in the case, George Greer, has a reputation of not following up with guardians who come under his jurisdiction, that they have filed their mandated returns. In fact Michael Schiavo failed to file these financial returns to detail what he had been spending in Terri's name. The Schiavo case is in Florida only the tip of the iceberg, and the cases that come under the jurisdiction of Greer might give cause for concern.

The first case examined by the LA Times staff is that of a elderly woman by the name of Emmeline Frey, who at the age of 93 ended up in the clutches of a woman by the name of Donna Daum. Frey had managed to amass an estate that was valued at over $1.1 million due to her penny pinching habits. Within the first 12 months of the conservatorship, Daum had given $500,000 to her brother to invest. This money lost value over the period of about 3 years, and there was no accounting for the proceeds of the investments. There is also the ethical issue of using her brother as an "investment advisor" to be considered in this matter. The rip off occurred over a period of three years, yet the probate judge had done nothing to oversee the conservator to ensure that Frey's estate was preserved.

As the LA Times pointed out:

Professional conservators wield enormous power over people deemed too infirm to look after themselves. They choose their doctors, control their bank accounts and decide where they will live — even who can visit them.

Probate courts, which appoint conservators, are supposed to monitor their conduct, scrutinize their financial reports and fine or remove those who misuse their authority.

Yet the courts have failed dismally in this vital role.
The power of control that is exerted by the guardian is a power that is wielded by the unscrupulous in a rather authoritarian fashion. These comments could have been directed at the way in which guardians have the same in control in Florida. These are the words that are echoed so much in the Schiavo case, for Michael Schiavo wielded that power over Terri to the point that he refused to allow her family visitation access whenever he had a fight with them. He did not care at all about what was best for Terri, for in Michael Schiavo's world, only Michael Schiavo ever mattered. As we will see, in some respects the scenes played out in Florida are probably familiar scenes to a number of families who were trying to get their loved ones out of the clutches of guardians who were out to enrich themselves at the expense of their clients.

Out of 2400 cases that were examined by the staff of the LA Times, there was evidence that judges frequently ignored the evidence of neglect, incompetence and outright theft. Some of the conservators, such as Melodie Scott and Donna Daum steered business to friends and relatives. Some went as far as getting friends to buy the houses of their conservatees for a song, and then onselling the property at a much higher price, thus making a very handsome profit out of the estate of the conservatee. There have been reports of missing property, as well as conservators allowing friends and relatives to "sit" in the houses of their conservatees without the payment of rent.

When a conservator such as Melodie Scott or Donna Daum take over as the guardian of someone who is declared incapable of looking after himself, that person gains control over the bank account. This makes it easy to charge inflated fees and rip off money from the client's bank account, or to do, as Donna Daum did, hand money over to her brother to make poor financial investments that cause a drop in the value of the client's estate.

Who is to blame for this situation? The judges say that they are swamped. Is that a good reason for this sloth in not supervising adequately the way in which these people are conducting their conservatorship business? The system was designed, not with the professional conservator in mind, but with the family of the person in mind. The surge in the profession of conservators has brought about a business that has not been properly regulated. There are two methods of regulation: one is the legal requirements for obtaining a license to practice as a legal guardian and the other is the oversight of the courts. The state of California is in the process of addressing the first issue. What is it doing about the second issue? What is the reason for the probate judges neglecting their fiduciary duty towards all who come into the probate court? Are they receiving kickbacks from the lawyers who are supporting the crooked conservators?

To bring this back to the Schiavo case, there are many who question the way in which George Greer handled the Schiavo case. For the lawyers and guardians who are his buddies, Greer is seen as a hero. He received several awards because of his unwavering decision making that allowed Michael Schiavo to kill Terri through what can only be described as an horrendous death via starvation and dehydration. It must be pointed out that there is evidence that George Felos and other lawyers in the Schiavo camp gave generous donations to the re-election funds of George Greer. In fact there seems to be a very close relationship between the donation of campaign funds and the outcome of the various challenges in the case, not just at Greer's level but in the other higher courts as well. There is definitely a whiff of collusion in this case, especially when Greer won the award of judge of the year, and then Schiavo, who had behaved so unprofessionally as a guardian was awarded guardian of the year. It was a case of self-congratulation because the Schiavo-Felos-Greer conspirators had pulled off their coup of sacrificing a disabled woman upon the altar of a corrupt judicial system so that more guardians would be allowed to kill off their wards by pulling similar stunts. The use of Schiavo's brother and sister in law as corroborative witnesses to what Terri had allegedly said should not have been allowed because of the conflict of interest. We have no guarantee that what they said under oath was true, especially when they only came forward when it seemed that Michael had stuffed up so bad that it looked like he was going to lose on his request.

The parallels between the cases that have been presented are very strong and they are parallels that cannot easily be ignored.

(to be continued)


Widow's step family find her - she requests new guardian be appointed

Widow Seeks New Guardian - Los Angeles Times

There has been good news for Helen Jones, the elderly woman whose financial assets were being bled dry by Melodie Scott, the professional conservator. In what has been a real turn around for Helen Jones, her late husband's family read about her plight and they have come forward to claim her and to offer help.

As a result of the step-grandson, Michael, coming forward, Melodie Scott has relinquished her role as Helen's guardian, leaving Helen free to request that Michael be placed in charge of her assets.

Mike Tomazin, 52, of Madera filed court papers to replace Melodie Scott, an entrepreneur who in 2002 sought and won court appointment as Jones' conservator, California's term for an adult's guardian.

Jones' court-appointed lawyer, Donnasue Smith Ortiz, said Scott has agreed to resign. Scott did not return calls seeking comment, but her attorney has said in the past that her client would step down for a "suitable" conservator.

Michael Tomazin, the 52 year old step grandson stepped in at the request of his parents, after they had learned about the plight of the elderly Helen Jones. The children of her late husband had lost contact with her after his death, and they were shocked when they were contacted by the Los Angeles Times. Michael, who lives 300 miles away from Helen willingly filed the court papers to become her guardian.

April Trial Set for Woman Seeking to End Conservatorship - Los Angeles Times

In November a trial date of April 22 was set for Helen Jones, the elderly widow who was fighting to regain control over her affairs from Melodie Scott.

The Los Angeles time began following Helen's story when reporters were investigating the activities of the professional conservators in California. Helen's case was one of several cases that were highlighted by the reporters.

Helen told of her frustration over the case becoming a long and drawn out affair, and over the hearings that have been months apart and at the end of yet another hearing there would be no action taken.

When a family matter turns into a business pt 3

The issue of appointed conservators, as they are called in California, or as appointed guardians, as they are called in Florida, is one that needs to be handled so that the person who is being forced into this situation is not being ripped off by people who are out for a fast buck. The stories that are listed in the Los Angeles Times are a litany of how elderly people have been tricked into becoming the wards of these professional conservators.

The law that was originally enacted was meant to make it easier for family members to administer the estates of their loved ones who were no longer able to look after themselves. However, things changed when a university economics professor became the first to set himself up in the business of professional conservator. In the end he was forced to get out of the business because of the complaints that were made against him. This did not stop the growing number of these "professional" conservators. In fact this had become a new "professional" industry. The stories that have been outlined in the Los Angeles Times report have shown that even if this is a growing professional industry, it is not an industry that is both professional and ethical.

To recap on Helen's story, she was tricked into signing a piece of paper that gave her rather unscrupulous conservator the right to control her "wealth" and possessions. Helen had always been a frugal woman and it was distressing to her that the conservator was wasting so much of her money on things that she considered to be an unnecessary addition to her home. What is worse, for Helen at least, the conservator had used information on her medical records against her, and tried to force her into taking medication for a mental illness that is mentioned in her records, and which it might be considered that it is debatable that she has this particular illness.

In each of the illustrated cases it has become clear that once a person is committed to the clutches of the professional conservators, there is almost no way that they can reverse the court decision. This is the same scenario that is happening all over the USA, and for the Schindler family, it meant the unnecessary and untimely death of their daughter, Theresa Marie Schindler-Schiavo - there was no way that George Greer was going to reverse his decision (was there a kickback?). Some of the hapless victims have been very wealthy, such as Donald Van Ness, a former owner of a candy company, who did not know that a conservator had been appointed until he tried to use his credit card. The unscrupulous way in which the conservators have behaved has led to a lot of litigation for the hapless victims and their families, having to even fight to find out where the family member had been taken.

The misuse of their clients’ funds, deliberately selling off assets to either friends or family and a number of other practices that have caused hardship, and perhaps in some cases have led to the untimely death of the victim because of neglect, are just some of the litany of charges that have been leveled at these unscrupulous conservators.   These conservators have a power that is quite frightening, and when one considers the fact that instead of being family members, as intended by the original legislation, they are strangers who are out to enrich themselves at the expense of their hapless victims. How else can one explain the fact that one woman’s estate was billed by her conservator because he attended her funeral? The amount billed was $1700, and this kind of charging is just the tip of the iceberg.

How do these professional conservators manage to take control over the lives of their unwary victims? They do it at such a speed that the families of their victims do not even have the opportunity to prevent the conservatorship happening in the first place. The Los Angeles Times reporters state:

“In many courtrooms, they get emergency appointments on the day they ask for them, based on short forms in which they swear that prospective clients cannot care for themselves.
These hasty hearings are meant for cases in which elderly people are in imminent danger. But professional conservators have made them the norm, The Times found. More than half of their Southern California cases began this way.Adults are entitled by law to attend emergency hearings. Yet they were not formally notified in more than half the cases The Times examined. Often, judges dispensed with the requirement after conservators told them that prospective wards were too feeble to come to court.By securing immediate appointments, professionals can gain control over elders before safeguards required in non-emergency cases kick in. For example, in nine of 10 emergency cases, wards were not interviewed by a court investigator before a judge decided they needed a conservator.”

The Times discovered at least 50 cases where the conservators had used their clients’ money to enrich themselves. Some clients, such as Mr. Charles Thomas, who had built up his fortune by establishing Burger King Franchisees, have had their estates and fortunes plundered by the unscrupulous. One of the problems with the current laws is that the law does not set down what is reasonable. This leaves the way open for exorbitant charges by these conservators. In the case of Mr. Thomas, the conservator, Lablow plundered the estate for more than $1 million in fees alone.

The enrichment does not end with the charging of exorbitant fees, for in one case a Sacramento conservator used his girl-friend’s firm to auction off the possessions of his wards. In another case, a San Francisco conservator decorated his apartment with the Chinese paintings that were the possession of his ward. In another case, Melodie Scott allowed her sister-in-law to live in a house owned by one of her wards, rent free. The owner of the house was a woman who, at the age of 51 suffered from bipolar disorder. Scott told the court that neither she, nor Sarah Kerley had enriched themselves at the expense of this client. However, whilst Kerley lived in the house, the client’s funds paid for the thousands of dollars worth of utility bills that had been racked up. The woman had been moved from her own house so that Kerley and Scott could in fact benefit from the situation.

In another case, that of Florrie Fairfield, a wealthy former real estate agent, she was placed in the hands of a conservator on the grounds that she suffered from a form of Alzheimer’s disease and it was necessary to ensure that no one took advantage of her. However, the conservator who was assigned to this woman ended up being the beneficiary of Fairfield’s multimillion dollar estate. In California at least, the guardians are not supposed to be able to benefit in this way. There are supposed to be checks and balances in place, but it seems that in this case, these steps were not taken. The female conservator covered herself from infringing the law by ensuring that the will named the company as the beneficiary and not herself. This is not good enough and this woman should have been charged with defrauding her client.

These are the cases that have been the tip of the iceberg in California, where the law had tried to protect those who needed to take over the care of their family members, but where professionals moved in and started to bleed their victims’ estates dry. For the families involved in these cases there have been costly legal battles against these strangers who have entered into their lives. In some respects the stories outlined by the Los Angeles Times have a familiar ring, for there are stories to be told from Florida, through to Washington and New York of people who are being ripped off by these unscrupulous strangers. One common thread that has come to light in the stories is the mention of the requirement to file returns. Once again we see an issue that is being raised  - the non-compliance by the conservators for the filing of these returns.


Fredericksburg.com - Carrots don't wince in pain: The brain-damaged are people, too

Fredericksburg.com - Carrots don't wince in pain: The brain-damaged are people, too

It is almost a year since Terri was forced to starve to death, when she was not even allowed to be given an ice chip. This case put euthanasia on demand on the world stage. It was the cruelest death that could ever be handed to an innocent person. Terri did not want to die and she made that clear when she consistently refused to give up the will to live when she was abused almost on a daily basis by the man who alleges that he loved her, and that he was only fulfilling her wishes by ordering her death.

Terri Schiavo was brain damaged but she was not brain dead. She was not "just lying there like a corpse". She was able to get out of bed. She could smile, and she could feel pain, as well as manage to smell odours. That is why the writer of this article has stated "carrots don't wince in pain". Neither do potatoes, tomatoes, or cucumbers. Yet the people who wanted Terri kept up a constant mantra that she could feel no pain and that the death that they prescribed for her would be "lovely" and that she would "feel nothing".

As Terri neared death, George Felos, the lawyer for Michael Schiavo, the adulterer who was living with another woman whilst he condemned his wife to death, even described Terri as looking beautiful. However, the reality of Terri's condition happened to be that she showed all of the signs of dehydration, as her body was drying out. It is not a sight that could be described as beautiful. One has to question the mental stability of a man who would describe a woman dying from dehydration as beautiful. Not even carrots are forced to become so withered and dry before they are plucked from the ground and prepared to be eaten.

The contrasting story here is that of a 44 year old fireman who had been in a minimally concious state due to injuries he had sustained, and who through the love of his family suddenly recovered, sat up and started talking to them. He lasted about one year before he died from complications of pneumonia. This man is a reminder that people who are described as PVS are not vegetables but they are in fact viable human beings.

What is wrong with out world that we are prepared to follow the dictates of a mad man who described brain injured people as though they had no right to live? Why is it that a neurologist is allowed to get away with testifying that someone who can sit up in bed is allegedly in a state that she does not deserve the chance to be given any form of therapy that would have assisted her recovery?

Terri is dead because the American judicial system denied her of her civil rights. Lest we forget, even brain injured people have civil rights and the right to be killed is not one of the rights that have been enshrined in the American Bill of Rights and the American Constitution. The legal system in the USA needs a good shake up and the justices who have been promoting the Culture of Death through their written decisions need to be removed from the bench. Men and women who uphold life need to be appointed to the bench in the USA, otherwise the slide into oblivion will be awaiting the USA. Hopefully Terri's case will not lead to that slide into oblivion, rather it is hoped that this case will act as an anticlimax for the death movement.