Family, hospital in conflict over level of care for elderly dementia patient

Family, hospital in conflict over whether to end life-saving treatment for elderly woman

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thirteen years ago, Charlotte Azuma signed a health care directive that said she didn’t want doctors to prolong her life if she had an incurable and irreversible condition that would quickly result in death.

The woman’s sister says that directive means Azuma — who suffers from dementia — should be taken off dialysis, which would end her life.

But the 79-year-old also recently told people she wants to live and now her family says The Queen’s Medical Center is refusing to stop the treatment.

Azuma has been at Queen’s Medical Center since the end of May. She was admitted to the ER during her dialysis for a fever.

Her younger sister and legal agent, Piilani Kaopuiki, says she’s suffering from dementia and kidney failure.

“I would like Queen’s to terminate the dialysis," Kaopuiki. said.

“Keep her there because they are providing excellent care for her and put her into hospice or whatever type of palliative arrangement that they can so she can pass peacefully and with dignity and honor.”

But the situation is complicated because Kaopuiki says at the hospital, Azuma recently told others she wants to live — which goes against the health care directive she signed.

Legal experts say these types of conflicts are common. Queen’s Medical Center does have a medical ethics committee, which would examine and offer advice in this type of case.

The questions at the core of the issue: What is the life-sustaining treatment being offered, how is the patient incapacitated and what are the patient’s wishes?

Queen’s couldn’t comment on the case because of patient privacy laws.

But the hospital said in a statement that patient safety and well-being at top priorities.

“We are committed to providing the highest level of care that honors the wishes of every patient,” said Queen’s spokesman Cedric Yamanaka said.

Kaopuiki says she won't get any financial gain from her sister's death if dialysis is stopped.

"I'm comfortable with it. I'm her agent. She made her statement clear," she said.

Kaopuiki’s attorney, Megan Kau, said those on both sides of the conflict must decide: “Do we follow the directive that was signed when the person was competent or do we follow the person’s direction now in spite of the the fact that she’s not mentally competent?”

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.