An Imposed Death in Hospice

Mr. Dennis Barry’s wife, Lucy, age 90, was admitted to a hospice facility for a “respite” and died shortly thereafter. A little over a year after she died, Dennis called the Hospice Patients Alliance to tell her tragic story.


At a hospice, Lucy Barry was given Haldol (an antipsychotic drug), Ativan (an anti-anxiety drug), and hydromorphone (an opioid pain medication that is stronger than morphine). It was never requested or needed. The hospice never informed her or her husband what was being given, why it was being given, or that it would cause her death. Though Lucy had a terminal illness, she was not expected to die any time soon, and she was very lively.


According to Dennis’ account, while having breakfast on September 23, 2015, Lucy slid off her wheelchair onto the kitchen floor. She was unhurt. However, at the time of the fall, Dennis was on the phone with a hospice social worker. (A few months previously, they had accepted home help from hospice.) The social worker heard the commotion and suggested a three-day respite at their hospice facility. They accepted the offer.


Drugged into unconsciousness


An ambulance took them to the facility. Upon arrival, Lucy was hustled into her room. When Dennis started to follow her, a woman prevented it by telling him, “You can’t enter into the room. Sit over there in the hallway.” Dennis laments, “I never heard my wife’s voice after that!”


Dennis noticed a lot of activity, with staff entering and exiting Lucy’s room for about twenty minutes. Then he was allowed in. Lucy was flat on her back with her eyes closed. He could not rouse her. He was shocked. She appeared to have been drugged into unconsciousness. A short time later, a woman entered and said his wife would be okay, and asked how he was going to go home. He answered, “I just got here.” She told him that a worker was leaving soon and could give him a ride home. He wanted to stay, but she pushed him to go home.


He returned the next day at about seven in the morning. He found Lucy in the same position and in the same state as the night before. She was unresponsive. When the doctor arrived at about one in the afternoon, Dennis told her he did not like the state his wife was in. The doctor was there for ten minutes or less and did nothing but visually examine Lucy while standing at the foot of the bed and talking to Dennis, assuring him Lucy would come out of the coma.


After the doctor left, a staff member gave Lucy some liquid medicine, but did not tell Dennis what it was. A couple of hours later, another staff member was going to administer another dose. Dennis asked why, since the last dose had been given only about two hours ago. At that, she did not give the second dose. Dennis recalled that the nurses did almost nothing for Lucy other than medicate her.


Dennis told a staff member who offered him a ride home that he wanted to stay overnight. She said he wouldn’t want to do that. “All the while I was there,” Dennis states, “I was constantly next to Lucy, holding her hands, kissing her occasionally on the lips or cheeks, showing her some affection in different ways. There was no response from her!”


Sudden death


The worker came to give Dennis a ride home, but his niece was there and offered to take him home that evening. The next day, September 25, 2015, at about 5:50 a.m., Dennis received a call from the hospice that Lucy had passed away about 5:47. “Why didn’t you call me?” he asked. The caller said, “It happened very fast.”


Dennis believes Lucy’s death was an imposed death: “the drugs and dosage used were administered by hospice with sinister intent and not with a view to benefit her health in any way.” Dennis did his research and concluded his tragic story:


I read that the FDA mandated a “black box warning” for Haldol, indicating that when it is given to elderly patients with dementia, the patients have almost a doubled risk of premature death than if they’re not given that drug! I read, “Haldol is not approved for use in older adults with dementia because of increased chances of death during treatment” [see]. My elderly wife had some dementia. She should not have been given it, she did not want it, and the hospice staff never asked our permission for it to be administered.


I note that a possible serious effect of Ativan (also administered to my wife at the hospice) is strong sedation, and my wife–who was completely alert before entering the hospice facility–was clearly in a medically-induced coma, which my niece, who is a nurse, verified….We never requested Ativan and she didn’t need it. They never informed us it was going to be given.


I also see that hydromorphone (administered as well to my wife at the hospice) can sedate a patient, but also result in respiratory depression and death like any opioid given when not needed. We never requested it and she didn’t need it. They never informed us it was being given to her.


For all these reasons, I would never recommend hospice to a soul. This was my experience with hospice. It was certainly not what we expected at all!


Read the full story, “My Dismal Experience with Hospice,” by Dennis Barry.