Cutting Short a Long Goodbye

By H. I. Grousbeck, C. G. Prober, Alexander Tauber
2010 | Case No. ETH20 | Length 4 pgs.
Bernie and Ruby Merwald live in Menlo Park, California during their retired ages when Bernie falls ill to dementia and Alzheimer’s. This causes him to have significantly complex medical problems that result in familial conflicts, violence and avoidance of the doctor’s orders. When Bernie has a heart attack on top of his failing health, siblings want to pull the plug, but their protective and isolating mother disagrees. Because of a California law, the mother is responsible for all medical decisions and continues to subject her husband to over-medication and worsening of his condition against the doctor’s orders.

Learning Objective

This case attempts to teach about a medical situation that arises from policy making. The difficulties involved with the Merwalds when the father’s health takes a downturn and the mother becomes protective causes severe communication problems between the entire family. These communication problems affected the hospital capabilities and operations because it was required to continue caring for a patient that the doctor deemed should be moved home to die peacefully. Conflicts of familial tension and laws that cause further difficulties in caring arise frequently in hospital care.
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