Attorneys around the country report an alarming uptick in calls for help from families of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
Some say they’ve talked to family members who were arrested after trying to visit a loved one or to speak with a doctor after communications with the hospital were cut off.
Attorneys told The Epoch Times about a wide variety of instances of what they call abuse, including hospitals preventing visits from family, failing to provide nutrition and fluids, and coercing patients to agree to treatments they’d already refused multiple times—such as being placed on a ventilator.
Gainesville, Florida, attorney Jeff Childers has been so alarmed by the cases he’s seen, he posted a tutorial online with tips on how to navigate the legalities surrounding hospitalization with COVID-19.
Childers warns that he’s not a doctor and that he’s not offering medical advice.
When his office gets calls from concerned family members, the patient in question is already on a ventilator and the family is desperately concerned about treatment.
“In many cases, the hospitals have refused to release the patient, citing their unstable condition, meaning that at some point it can become impossible to get off the COVID express,” Childers wrote in his blog.
“The most common complaints we get include that patients are being pressured to accept Remdesivir, have been given Remdesivir even though they objected to it, or the hospital will not administer alternative widely-used treatments even though the patient is in critical condition where side effects are less risky than imminent death.
“I have personally seen hospitals spend tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers to keep patients in their facility.”
Childers was one of the attorneys who took on Mayo Clinic Florida in court hoping to help the family of Daniel Pisano try medications they believed would help him. Mayo Clinic attorneys fought back vigorously.
The Pisano family also had tried to arrange to transfer the 70-year-old grandfather and businessman to a hospital where he could receive the medications an outside doctor had said could save him.
Pisano passed while the family was still fighting to obtain alternative medications for him.
“I call it medical kidnapping,” Childers said. “This isn’t over by a long shot,” he added, alluding to a continuation of the fight with Mayo Clinic.
Mayo Clinic Florida has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the case and hospital attorneys asked judges on multiple occasions to seal documents that would reveal their arguments.
Another hospital in Naples, Florida, had two sisters arrested when they came to the facility seeking a visit with their father or a conversation with his doctor, Jim Boatman, an attorney, told The Epoch Times. The hospital stopped responding to the family’s requests for updates on their loved one when they started asking about alternative treatments, Boatman said.
Ultimately the women, who briefly spent time in jail for the offense, decided it would put their father’s care at risk if they filed a lawsuit, Boatman told The Epoch Times.
Attorney Esther Bodek in Aurora, Colorado, also knows of a patient’s family members who were arrested when communications with a hospital went sour. She says requests from families of COVID-19 patients have flooded in since November.
“It’s traumatizing,” Bodek said, “because it is a level of civil rights abuses that I have never encountered in my entire life.”
In case after case, she’s seen a pattern of separating COVID-19 patients from their families and restricting visitation. “And during that period of time is usually when the remdesivir is administered.”
Some families coming to her for help often strenuously object to treatment with remdesivir. When other treatments have failed, they desperately want to try things the hospital won’t allow, such as ivermectin and vitamins.
Those are part of a popular protocol used by independent doctors around the country and by people treating themselves at home.
Bodek has fought many times to obtain those medications as a last-ditch effort to save a patient. She said the resistance she faces when dealing with the hospitals is maddening.
“Any question about treatment starts immediate combativeness [by hospital staff], from what I’ve seen in the pattern of our cases,” she said.
She’s had clients denied fluids and nutrition to the point of near-starvation. Since taking those cases she works night and day seven days a week.
On the weekend, “I’ll be on the phone and talking to somebody in tears,” she said. “The hospital’s telling them they want to pull the plug and they’re trying to make a decision. The doctor says, ‘We’re going to take him off life support now.’ And I’ve had to say ‘No! That’s not their choice!’”
One of her clients works in billing in a hospital and told her that hospitals receive a bonus payment of $17,000 from the federal government for every patient confirmed to have COVID-19, Bodek said. A bonus payment of $37,000 is paid for any patient going on a ventilator, according to that client, Bodek said.
“And she works in hospital billing, so she would know,” Bodek added.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has not responded to requests for details about payments made to hospitals for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Bodek’s advice: “Stay out of the hospital, no matter what. And if it happens that you’re admitted, have a medical power of attorney immediately written up to say no to remdesivir.”
She’s looking into filing civil rights violations lawsuits if claims of medical malpractice won’t work.
“I’m determined to find a way to stop this abuse,” Bodek said. “This is definitely a fight we’re not giving up.”
Omaha, Nebraska attorney Gerard Forgét, who specializes in trusts and estates, contacted The Epoch Times hoping to offer similar advice for readers.
Hospitals often ask patients being admitted to sign a health care directive or living will indicating, in advance, decisions about whether or not to be put on life support.
“I advise clients against this,” Forgét said. Signing one of those documents “vests your physician with authority that supersedes your spouse, or other family members. This can yield tragic results!”
Giving a physician that power means he or she can remove life support without consulting family, he says. “Signing that gives your physician permission to kill you!”
The problems in American health care will take a long time to correct, Childers said.
“The blessing is COVID has exposed the problems” in health care, he added. “They weren’t created by COVID. COVID showed us where they are.”