An Alaska family says they are living in a “nightmare” after their son’s visit to an Anchorage hospital morphed into a custody battle that stripped them of their right to visit their child.
“I hurt — I cry every day and every night. It’s a nightmare,” Lorraine Bohn, mother of Bret Bohn, 27, told KTUU-TV. “It’s a nightmare that this even could be happening. I’m heartbroken, very heartbroken.”
In an extensive interview with TheBlaze Wednesday, Lorraine and her husband Glenn told their heartfelt story.
Last year, they said, at 26 years old, Bret was an athletic, healthy field guide for hunters. His only medical issue was the development of some nasal polyps — overgrowths in the nose — last fall. After they were surgically removed, the growths came back and Bret was prescribed Prednisone, an anti-inflammatory medication.
That’s when his trouble started. While on the drug, Bret soon became unable to sleep.
In October, his parents took their son to Providence Medical Center for severe insomnia. Doctors there prescribed drugs and sent him home.
Things soon got worse. Bret’s health deteriorated rapidly and, after a seizure, his family decided to take him back to the hospital.
“You know, I can’t help but to blame myself,” said his mother, now looking back in retrospect.
In the hospital, Bret was unable to sleep for some 24 days and his mental faculties were significantly diminished. His parents said that at this point, they assumed power of attorney over him, using a written agreement allowing them to make medical decisions for him. That agreement was initially drawn up in 2007, when Bret was a healthy 20-year-old.
More than 35 lab tests were conducted to diagnose Bret, but all came back clean. Meanwhile, his family said, doctors were medicating him with dozens of drugs, rendering him in a state of “delirium.” At one point, they said, Bret became so frustrated that he attempted to leave the hospital on his own, but was talked down by his parents.
That’s when his family, who contend the hospital’s course of treatment made their son worse, asked for a second opinion or different course of medical action. They say they were denied and were not permitted to withdraw their son from the hospital.
Eventually, a custody battle broke out. A judge ultimately ruled in favor of the state.
Now, the 27-year-old is a ward of the state and has been diagnosed with a metal-disorder, which has resulted in doctors heavily medicating him with various drugs, his family told TheBlaze.
“The state of Alaska owns him basically,” Lorraine Bohn said.
Bret is legally unable to make decisions for himself, his parents say, and in the custody of Adult Protective Services, which says it “helps to prevent or stop harm from occurring to vulnerable adults.”
“Alaska law defines vulnerable adults as a person 18 years of age or older who, because of incapacity, mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs, chronic intoxication, fraud, confinement or disappearance, is unable to meet the person’s own needs or to seek help without assistance,” Alaska’s Adult Protective Services website states.
According to KTUU-TV, officials would not specifically comment on this case, but spoke in general about the reasoning they use in such cases.
“We can’t just come in and take away somebody’s right and say, ‘That’s it,’” said Barbara Dick with Adult Protective Services. “We have to take it to court and we have our state attorneys with us and we have to have the evidence to support that.”
Citing privacy laws, Providence Medical Center spokesman Mikal Canfield was unable to comment to TheBlaze on the specific case and could not even confirm or deny whether Bret was still a patient at the hospital.
Canfield, however, did provide a statement explaining the hospital’s guardianship policy.
“Health care providers are required by state law to make reports of harm to Adult Protective Services whenever they have reasonable cause to believe a vulnerable adult suffers from abuse or neglect,” it said.
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“Health care providers are permitted under state law, and required by their standard of care, to decline to comply with the direction of a surrogate if they determine that the surrogate is not abiding by the wishes, values, and best interest of the patient,” the hospital’s statement added, noting that they only restrict visitation to a patient “when that patient requests no visitors or when restricting visitation is medically necessary and in the best interests of the patient.”
Wayne Ross, the attorney representing the Bohn parents, however, told TheBlaze late Wednesday that this state law doesn’t apply in this particular case because Bret’s parents were named as agents for his health care decisions, not simply surrogates. According to Ross, health care agents have far more power than surrogates, since they are “specifically chosen” by the individual and are not “default persons such as friends and family.”
“On October 31, 2013, when Glenn and Loraine provided proof of their status as Bret’s agents, Providence declined to comply with the law,” he added in a statement. “Instead, they chose to seek a public guardian for Bret from the State of Alaska.”
“Regrettably, the trial judge in this case has apparently ignored Providence’s breach of law,” Ross concluded.
Throughout the legal battle, the family insists all they only want is the best for their son. The last time they saw him was during a short supervised Christmas Day visit. His birthday was last month.
“They won’t give us any visitation,” his father, Glenn, told TheBlaze. “We can’t get in there to see him. No phone calls, nothing.”
“I’m now in this whirl of a — a nightmare, of a helpless nightmare,” Lorraine Bohn told KTUU-TV.
A Facebook page called “Free Bret Bohn,” shows individuals picketing, demanding the 27-year-old’s release.
Bret’s parents and supporters have drawn parallels to another “ward of the state” case — the one involving 15-year-old Justina Pelletier and her parents’ fight with Boston Children’s Hospital and the state of Massachusetts.
“It’s amazing because Bret’s on the fifth floor of Providence and [Justina] was on the fifth floor of Boston Children’s,” Loraine said. “I call it the fifth floor of hell because you hear people screaming and they are all drugged out of their minds.”
“I don’t know how he’s alive,” she added. “I think our prayers put a stronghold on him.”
The parents told TheBlaze that they would like to meet with the Pelletier family in an effort to join forces to spotlight medical custody issues and regain custody of their children.
For now they have nearly exhausted all other options, contacting state legislators and the governor’s office to no avail, while doing their best to live day to day.
“It’s a nightmare,” Loraine told TheBlaze. “Unbelievable nightmare.”
“We don’t sleep,” her husband echoed.
This story has been updated to include additional information on Alaska’s Adult Protective Services, a statement from Providence Medical Center and information from the Bohn family and their attorney.
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