The Sad Case Of Andrea Clarke

Yesterday, as I was perusing the Democratic Underground, I ran across a very troubling story. I’m reposting it here, so that you can read it just as I did last night (The phone numbers presently are x’d out, although you can read them in the original post)…


Mods, please don’t move this post. I know it’s not in the activist section, but there’s so little time left now, we need it to reach as many people as possible. We desperately need help.

Fellow DUers:

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

6720 Bertner Avenue, Houston, TX. Their phone number is: 832-***-****.

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. The reason that the physician gave to medicate her so much is that she is suffering from intractable pain in the sacral region (in other words, she has a bedsore that causes her pain). This is not reason enough, in our books, and we are trying, as we speak, to get Andrea’s medication lowered so that she can speak to us.

There is also some disagreement as to whether Andrea is really in that much pain, as well. When she is not medicated to this degree, and she sees her son, Charles, she smiles. She also mouths words (Andrea is very vocal, normally, even with a trach, and asks for food, etc., when she is not medicated to the gills). Once again, this is not like the Shiavo case, where there was brain death. Andrea has voiced her wishes, over and over again, and if she were not on so much pain medication, she would voice them again.

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.

We received notice of the ethics committee decision the day before yesterday and we are organizing a protest to take place tomorrow, at 2-2:30pm outside St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. Our family members number four and we will all be there, but we need more people. Please help us.

This protest is very likely to be filmed and get news coverage.

For those of you who will reply to this post with more questions, please see my other posts on this topic. I have done my best to answer all of your questions, but as you can imagine, my mind is not working as efficiently as it should, because I am upset. I assure you this is real; this is happening, and in Texas, medical professionals have the right, under the Futile Care Law, to discontinue life saving treatment, under these circumstances, even while the patient and the family is protesting that action. If you need more information, please see my other posts on this topic. For now, we need help, not questions or suggestions as to further courses of action. We are fighting on all fronts, ie., lawyers, news media, churches, internet, etc. We have left no stone unturned in this battle.

Many, many people, even some medical professionals in Texas, and other areas, don’t know about this law. They have no idea that this can be done, and it is is being done every day in Texas hospitals, but is not covered by the news media. This needs to become common knowledge and this law needs to be overturned, of course, but we are fighting for the life of our sister. We are fighting to see that her wishes about how she lives, and how she dies, are honored. Perhaps these kinds of battles are fought in just this way, one by one, out of love, and this is how the war is won, in the end.

Please help us. Please lend your presence to our fight at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas, located at 6720 Bertner Ave. at 2-2:30pm CST tomorrow (Saturday). If you would like to bring a sign, please do so, because we only have a limited amount. If you don’t, then please just bring yourself.

My name is Melanie Childers and my cell phone number is: 832-221-****. My sister (not the one in the hospital, but the one handling the protest) is Lanore Dixon and her numbers are: (cell) 214-577-**** and 254-874-****. Please do not call us unless you are calling to request some information that I have not posted here. We have our phones glued to our heads, trying to find a hospital that will take Andrea, before her ten days are up at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. I am posting these numbers only to show you that this is not some kind of scam, or a joke or something even more idiotic.

Please help us.

After reading this, I called Melanie Childers and talked with her about this case.

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.

In an effort to get the other side of the story, I spoke to a woman by the name of Melinda Muse at St. Luke’s who apparently handles their media contacts. Unfortunately, because of privacy laws, there was very little she could tell me. Here’s the statement she sent me via email after our conversation:

“Ms. Andrea Clarke was admitted to St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital on November 20, 2005. Due to St. Luke’s confidentiality policy regarding patient privacy, it is precluded from commenting on her care unless the family provides written consent to the hospital.

St. Luke’s treatment of Ms. Clarke has been and continues to be consistent with its mission of providing ethical, compassionate and quality care to all its patients.”

If what Melanie Childers has told me is correct, we’ve got a situation where a hospital that claims to provide “ethical, compassionate and quality care” is pulling a woman’s respirator and dialysis against her wishes and the wishes of her family after a doctor at their facility has said she might be able to recover. That doesn’t sound very “ethical” or “compassionate” to me and maybe if the word gets out about it, it might make a difference.

*** Update #1 ***: In response to some of the questions and comments in the thread and elsewhere…

#1) As anyone who has read RWN for a while knows, I don’t agree with Melanie Childers’ take on
Terri Schiavo. But, I’m not going to let that stand in the way of stepping up and trying to help out her sister.

#2) According to what Melanie Childers told me, the hospital intends to cease treating her sister because they don’t believe she can survive her heart condition. Per this post at the DU, Melanie Childers believes it actually has a lot to do with insurance costs.

#3) Melanie Childers says there is a doctor there who thinks her sister has a chance to recover and she is trying to get him to take over the case.

#4) I did ask Melanie Childers about the bed sore. She said her sister got it in the hospital.

#5) I’d love to hear what St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital has to say and encouraged Melanie Childers to give them written permission to talk about this case.

#6) I changed the sentence:

“Again, her sister is not brain damaged, she can speak, and she does not want the hospital to let her die.”


“Again, her sister is not brain dead, she can speak, and she does not want the hospital to let her die.”

If she has lost some motor control, but can think and speak, she may have some form of brain damage, but is not brain dead.

#7) I did ask Melanie Childers to keep me informed about what’s going on in this case. So, if there are any updates, I’ll let you know.

*** 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 Andrea Clarke is a 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 withhold Andrea’s care at 7 AM and refused to reschedule it, which led to Jerri not being able to attend.

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 before St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital terminates Andrea Clarke’s medical care.

Jerri also promised to keep me informed of any new developments in the case and if she gives me any new details, I’ll pass them on to you.

*** Update #3 ***: Hat tip to Alia for pointing out a local story on Andrea Clarke from KHOU at Houston.

— Jerri Ward emailed me to let me know that there had been a miscommunication between us about the ethics committee meeting. She says:

“The family slept in the parking garage for the previous ethics committee meeting regarding another care issue. They did not go to the ethics committee regarding withdrawal of care because I could not be there with them and they knew they’d get steamrolled.”

The last post has been corrected to reflect that.

— Also, there’s an odd dispute over whether it’s Andrea Clarke or Andrea Clark. Jerri and the KHOU article say it’s “Clark”. The hospital and the Melanie Childers article referenced above use “Clarke”.

— Also, Jerri Ward has posted in the RWN comments section about the case (she told me she might do that during our discussion about his issue on the phone). Here’s what she said:

“Okay, I can’t stand this anymore. First, we have tried facilities offering every conceivable level of care. She is on a respirator and getting dialysis. There are some nursing homes that offer respirator care and no dialysis and vice versa. The long term acute care facilities see that the hospital says she is “futile” and say they can’t take her because they are there to rehabilitate and send patients to a lower continuum of care. Other hospitals rely on the “futility” diagnosis. A provider won’t take a patient just on the say so of the family–they talk to the hospital. The hospital believes she is futile. It’s a catch-22.

The law sets ethics committees up as quasi-judicial entities that have no other oversight. There is no effective or fast way to dispute the decision of “futility”.

The law provides only 10 days to find another place and to go to court to request more time. In court, you have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a reasonable expectation of transfer. So for ten days you try to transfer or get evidence that somebody will take her.

I will have to challenge the entire law–that is a huge undertaking and ten days is not enough time to do it in.

And, yes, they will pull the plug on the 10th day.”

*** Update #4: **** You can read more about Andrea Clarke at the following websites:

Texas Rainmaker
Lone Star Times

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