Dialysis ordered in case of unresponsive patient

  • Article by: JEREMY OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 20, 2011 - 11:16 PM

The legal issue of who should make medical decisions for 85-year-ol Al Barnes of Scandia, Minn., awaits a Feb. 2 hearing.

Methodist Hospital must provide dialysis for 85-year-old Al Barnes, at least temporarily, despite the fact that his doctors believe the kidney treatment will do no good.

A Hennepin County judge on Thursday ordered the treatment until he can make a final ruling in a dispute over who has authority for medical care of the critically ill patient from Scandia.

The case involves an attempt by the St. Louis Park hospital to remove decisionmaking authority on Barnes' care from his wife, 56-year-old Lana Barnes.

A chief concern is whether Barnes will survive until Feb. 2, when court proceedings are to resume.

"Given the likelihood of death if the ward is not given dialysis, the ward's best interests and well-being would be jeopardized if treatment is not provided until all evidence can be presented for a final determination," said the order by Jay Quam, presiding judge of the county probate court.

Dr. Abel Tello, a nephrologist at Methodist, testified Wednesday that he would provide dialysis under court order, but that "we would still feel it's an inappropriate procedure" because the risks outweigh the chance of benefits for Barnes.

Barnes eats through a tube and breathes through a ventilator. Doctors believe he is completely unresponsive; Lana Barnes disputes that.

Lana Barnes said Thursday she was relieved to know her husband might receive dialysis again. She believes her husband's dementia is misdiagnosed and reversible.

Barnes appointed his wife as his medical decisionmaker several years ago, with instructions to pursue aggressive care if there was any chance he could recover, his wife said. The court has temporarily placed control of Barnes' care with Alternate Decision Makers, a Minneapolis firm specializing in guardianship.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744

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