Help Andrea Clarke

John Hawkins at Right Wing News blog came across a disturbing story playing out right here in Houston. It involves a woman who is on a respirator and receiving dialysis, and hospital officials have decided to end those treatments:

My sister, Andrea Clarke, is at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, TX.

The hospital ethics committee met the day before yesterday and concluded that Andrea's treatment (respirator and dialysis) should be discontinued. We have ten days to move her from that hospital or they will "pull the plug" and let Andrea die. Andrea, until a few days ago, when the physicians decided to increase her pain medication and anesthetize her into unconsciousness, was fully able to make her own medical decisions and had decided that she wanted life saving treatment until she dies naturally. We have learned that this is part of the process, when hospitals decided to declare the "medical futility" of continueing treatment for a patient. But, this is not a Terry Schiavo case; not anything like it. Andrea, when she is not medicated into unconsciousness (and even when she is, and the medication has worn off to some degree) is aware and cognizant. She has suffered no brain damage to the parts of her brain responsible for thought and reason, or speech. She has only suffered loss of some motor control.


Houston hospitals have a policy in that once the medical treatment of a patient has been deemed "medically futile" no other hospital in the area will accept transfer of that patient to their facility. This means that the patient, who is usually in a very delicate condition anyway, has to be transported over a long distance, in order to receive care.

That is from the original story that Hawkins saw. Subsequently, Hawkins spoke to Andrea Clarke's sister and here's what he learned:

She told me that her sister recently had surgery for a heart condition. After surgery, she developed an infection and that's why she's so weak and needs a respirator to breathe. Again, her sister is not brain dead, she can speak, and she does not want the hospital to let her die.

Moreover, disturbingly, according to Ms. Childers there is a doctor at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital who has examined her sister and said that he thinks she has a chance to recover. Imagine that, folks -- being sick, having the odds against you, but wanting to fight for your life -- and having the hospital that's treating you cut you off at the knees when you're at your most vulnerable.

Melanie has told me that she has been trying to find another hospital that will take her sister before the deadline, but she's had no success so far (even though her sister has insurance) and St. Luke's and a social worker assigned to the case have been of little or no help.


Update #2 ***: I've just gotten off of a phone conversation with Andrea Clarke's lawyer, Jerri Ward of Garlo Ward.

I had her look over this post and she did confirm all the details and added a few more. She said that Andrew Clarke is widower, with a 23 year old son, and she does not want to die.

She also added that the hospital's ethics committee held the meeting where they decided to terminate Andrea at 7 AM and refused to reschedule it, which led to Andrea Clarke's family sleeping in the parking garage in order to make it on time and Jerri not being able to make it.

The deadline for Andrea Clarke is Sunday and Jerri said she'll be exploring "all legal avenues" in an effort to stop it, but because of the way the law is written in Texas, she's not confident she can get Andrea Clarke into a new facility or keep St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital from terminating Andrea Clarke's medical care.

I can't recall seeing anything about this in our local media, but if you have, please forward the link so I can include it.

I hope this story will receive some attention so Ms. Clarke's family will have the time they need in order to move her to another hospital. I'm no expert, but it sounds as though Andrea Clarke wants to live, her family wants her to live, and even a doctor has said she can recover. It is unconscionable that she would not be given that chance.

UPDATE: KHOU-11 is now reporting the story.

RELATED (from the archives): Hospital to remove Houston man from life support, Life and death in Houston, Feeling our way through the end of life.

BLOGVERSATION: Cvstos Fidei, Lone Star Times, Texas Rainmaker.

Posted by Anne Linehan @ 04/24/06 08:51 PM | Print |

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