What I Read is “Love”

By Doug Chalgian on January 27, 2024

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The tragic aspects of this case touched me.

The outcome troubles me.

How could it not?

An adult child of a severely demented parent took her mother out of the nursing home, put her mother to bed, got a gun, climbed in bed with her, and killed both herself and her mother.

Before pulling the trigger, this child called her sister’s boyfriend and explained that she could not allow her mother to continue to suffer as she was.

That’s tragic.

But equally tragic, it seems to me, is that fact that, when it was over, two other adult children of the decedent (but not the one whose boyfriend got the call) sued the estate of the sibling who pulled the trigger for loss of consortium with their demented parent.

Seriously?  Loss of consortium with a person who no longer knew who you were?

The record reflects that the offending child was not wrong about the hell that her mother was going through. And the record also reflects that the one that pulled the trigger and the child that chose not to sue are the two that were most involved in their mother’s care.

At trial, the court directed a verdict on liability and allowed a jury to decide damages.  The allegedly distraught children were awarded several hundred thousand dollars.

The COA affirmed the jury award and justified the result as follows:

We disagree with the premise of defendant’s argument that there can be no loss of society and companionship if the plaintiff’s decedent is suffering from a mental illness or other significant health concern. Although Helen’s illness and resulting behavioral issues may have impacted her contact with her children, she still could engage with them. Furthermore, she was receiving medical care that offered hope that her condition could improve and be controlled by adjusting her medications. Her past behavioral issues did not eliminate the possibility of maintaining a relationship with her children, both presently and in the future.

What hope with advanced dementia?

Like many of you, I have listened to clients wonder if and how their parent can be saved from the suffering that dementia frequently visits upon its victims.  And while I understand (and respect) all the arguments about how wrong it is for people to take such matters in their own hands, I can’t help but feel like I can read between the lines in this case.  And what it says to me is: Love.

To read Estate of Helen G. Fowler v Estate of Jennifer L. Fowler click here. The case is unpublished.

 

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mm By: Doug Chalgian
Doug Chalgian

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