BALTIMORE – The chief physician at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center defended the hospital Thursday against charges that it denied a gay man visitation with his domestic partner as the second man lay dying.
Dr. Thomas Scalea said doctors were too busy treating Robert Daniel for AIDS-related ailments that eventually killed him to let Bill Flanigan see his partner in October 2000.
“At the time, it was not appropriate for anybody to see Mr. Daniel because we were busy taking care of him,” Scalea said.
Flanigan sued the hospital Wednesday for negligence. He said that hospital officials turned him away, even though he had legal documents identifying the two as registered domestic partners in their home state of California and granting Flanigan power of attorney for Daniel’s health care decisions.
An official with the gay-rights legal group that is handling the case for Flanigan noted that Thursday’s statements are a change from the day before, when the hospital said it turned Flanigan away because officials did not know he held Daniel’s medical power of attorney. “Today there’s a new reason, that they were too busy,” said Michael Adams, deputy legal director for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Scalea said the hospital does not now have a copy of the health care proxy that would have given Flanigan the power to make Daniel’s health-care decisions.
He said the hospital was surprised when it received the lawsuit Thursday morning, because it had not had contact with Flanigan or Daniel’s family since Daniel died at the hospital 16 months ago.
“It was a very busy night and visitation was at the discretion of the nurses,” Scalea said. “Very skilled nurses” run the Trauma Resuscitation Unit where Daniel was being treated and they decide which patients are allowed visitors. He said the nurses were aware that Flanigan was waiting to see Daniel, and that Flanigan was told, “We’ll get you up as soon as we can.”
But Adams said hospital officials told Flanigan little that night. “Were they too busy to give Bill a shred of information about Robert?” he asked. “And all of that changed when Robert’s mother and sister arrived.”
Scalea said it is a coincidence that Daniel’s condition stabilized at the time his mother and sister arrived. At that point, the mother, sister and Flanigan were all allowed in to see Daniel, although he was then unconscious.
Flanigan said medical procedures were performed that Daniel would not have consented to, including insertion of a breathing tube.
But Scalea said Daniel agreed to all medical procedures, including the breathing tube, until he became unconscious. At that point, he said, Flanigan and Daniel’s family were consulted.
“Mr. Flanigan was involved in every conversation we had about Mr. Daniel,” Scalea said.