A Hennepin County judge has taken medical decision-making authority from the wife of 85-year-old Al Barnes, calling her "deceiving" and rebutting her claims that his severe dementia and other conditions are reversible.
While noting that Lana Barnes is "adamant and sincere" in believing that her husband can recover, the ruling found no evidence to support her claim that he suffers from a reversible form of Lyme disease.
"He is dying, slowly and painfully," the ruling stated. "The evidence before the court establishes that no amount of medical care and treatment is going to change that."
Alternate Decision Makers, a Minneapolis firm, will remain as emergency guardian for Barnes, at least until a March 3 hearing, when a permanent guardian is named.
Lana Barnes appeared to have little chance to retain control -- and might have exposed herself to criminal or civil litigation -- after a court hearing Wednesday when she admitted altering a legal document governing her husband's care. When her husband was admitted to Methodist Hospital on Dec. 25, Lana Barnes presented only one page of a three-page health care declaration naming her as decision-maker for her husband's care.
The missing two pages of the 1993 document contradicted her claims that her husband wanted aggressive, life-sustaining care.
Wednesday's hearing also revealed the existence of a 1994 health care directive that superseded the 1993 document and named Barnes' eldest son, James, as decision-maker.
The hearing was held to consider a petition filed by Methodist to take authority away from Lana Barnes, who had requested antibiotics for her husband's infections and dialysis for his failing kidneys. The doctors declined on the basis that his dementia was too profound and that it would be unethical to provide such treatment to a fragile patient.
The ruling permits the guardian to discontinue dialysis and other life-sustaining treatments if it is determined that doing so would align with Barnes' requests and interests.
The Hennepin County Probate Court ruling was made by Judge Jay Quam, based on recommendations from the referee, Dean Maus, who presided over the hearing.
The ruling suggests that Lana Barnes "misrepresented" herself as her husband's health care agent and knew about the 1994 document "but chose not to disclose it."
"One can see why Mrs. Barnes did what she did: She deeply loves her husband and desperately does not want him to leave," the ruling stated. "Unfortunately, desperation breeds dishonesty. Though Mrs. Barnes' purpose in deceiving the court may have seemed noble to her, it is not acceptable to the court."
Lana Barnes did not return a call after the order was released. Earlier Friday, she said she should retain authority over her husband's care based on a ruling in a related 2005 case in Chisago County. But Friday's ruling states that she also failed to live up to that agreement, which required her to comply with recommendations of her husband's doctors.
Clint Barnes, a nurse in California, said he was kept apprised of his father's condition, but was shocked when he visited him this week -- prior to testifying against his stepmother in Wednesday's hearing.
"To actually see him lying there, it was surprising," he said. About the ruling, Clint Barnes said, "I think it will allow everyone involved to have peace."
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744