DeArmond v. Kaiser Permanente
Compassion & Choices Legal Director Kathryn Tucker is consulting counsel with California trial lawyer James Geagan in bringing this case against Kaiser Permanente, seeking monetary damages and an order that Kaiser, one of the nation’s largest health plans, institute policies to ensure their providers respect patients’ treatment instructions.
The case concerns Emily DeArmond, who lived with brain cancer for most of her young life. As she approached her final months, her parents, doctors and a medical ethicist met to discuss Emily’s care in light of her rapid decline. Together they completed a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), which documented their decisions in official physician instructions.
Several weeks later, Emily’s parents found her unconscious in bed. They rushed her to a nearby emergency room affiliated with Kaiser, Emily’s provider. They told the staff about her POLST, which included the order: Do Not Intubate; they did not want Emily to endure any painful, invasive procedures in her final days. The emergency physician failed to honor the order and forced a breathing tube down Emily’s throat. She endured the tube until she was transferred to another Kaiser facility, where doctors withdrew it and allowed her to die.
This case is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation that seeks to hold a provider accountable for failing to honor a POLST. Compassion & Choices brings cases like this to raise awareness of critically important healthcare issues, to improve end-of-life experiences and create needed social change. These cases establish important principles of end-of-life care and choice.