Bioethics Blogs

Duty to Challenge Surrogate with Suspect Authority – Frausto v. Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital

In February 2012, 67-year-old Diane Rimert was transferred from her nursing home to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Forth Worth, Texas.  

Clinicians there informed Rimert’s twin sons, Greg and Glen Frausto, that Ms. Rimert’s condition was deteriorating.  Clinicians also informed them lifesaving medical care was being denied pursuant to a DNR and Medical Power of Attorney designating non-relative Doris Jamigan as Rimert’s agent for medical decisions (with Ms. Jarnigan agreeing with the determination to withhold care).

The Frausto brothers vigorously contested the validity of these documents, informing Methodist Hospital that Rimert was mentally incompetent to execute them at the time due to her well-documented history of mental health problems.  Rimert was a ward of the state and had been involuntarily committed to a state mental health facility.

In ongoing lawsuits in both state and federal court, the Frausto brothers contend that the hospital had a duty to keep Diane Rimert alive until the dispute regarding the validity of her DNR and MPOA could be resolved.  

This is a valid position supported by precedent.  First, clinicians should challenge surrogates who do not appear to have the authority to make the decisions they are making.  Second, life-sustaining treatment should continue pending the resolution of the dispute.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.