“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!” – Samuel Adams

Behind Closed Doors: The Gary Harvey Story

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Dying With Dignity” (Emma Wright – June 3, 2009) was the title of WENY-TV’s report on the Gary & Sara Harvey story.

This was a story (not fully reported) that has the government, business, staff, lawyers, judges and the so-called ethics committee intruding upon personal family and health care matters; not only intruding, but making life and death decisions for Gary, while apparently excluding Sara Harvey to the point of telling her (to her face) that the decision of the (so-called) ethics committee would be reported to the establishment’s attorney, who would then relay it to her attorney, so if she wanted to know anything, she would have to ask him.

The degree of compassion, or rather, lack thereof, is utterly amazing and far from comforting. (No vote of confidence from this side of the screen.)

The Ethic’s Committee Consult reportedly held behind closed doors on May 29, 2009 is neither the beginning nor the end of the story at hand. It is merely the latest insult in a long line of events that go back nearly three and one half years. Events that challenge and define and assures us that our lives can change in a spilt second no matter what we might have thought a moment before the devastation devours all the hopes and dreams once held dear.

On or about January 21, 2006, Gary Harvey, 55, had a heart attack, fell down the basement stairs and hit his head. As a result, according to his wife, Sara, he suffered severe brain damage and is profoundly disabled. Thus the chapters begin.

Gary was initially transferred to McAuley Manor in Hornell, New York. It was there that Sara said she assisted in his personal care, therapies, care related to his feeding tube and trach, as well as being educated on danger signs to be vigilant of with regard to the latter. She reports that there was no problem with either Gary’s feeding tube or trach during his stay at this care facility.

On or about May 17, 2006, Gary was transferred to Chemung County Nursing Facility (CCNF) and the chapter of unsuspected horrors was soon to be added to the Harveys’ book of life’s challenges. It is the chapter Sara apparently didn’t see coming. Had she, perhaps she would have handled situations differently and avoided annoying those in power. But then, it is easy to second guess when one is privy to the outcome and aware of what led up to it.

There appears to have been a situation where Gary was pulling on something called a “fish line” which has to do with his trachea. A tracheal tube has two air lines. One inflates the cuff and the other one monitors the cuff pressure. The purpose of inflating and sealing is to hopefully prevent the potential of aspiration

According to Sara, the line was defective and not performing its intended function. Though she made repeated attempts to get the staff to take corrective measures, they failed to do so. In desperation, and with medical staff seeming to make no effort to dissuade her, she cut the defective “fish line” to motivate them to fix it. It worked. It also exacted a price she hadn’t counted on.

Though Sara’s actions apparently didn’t put her husband in immediate harm or cause him distress, and did actually get staff to finally correct the problem that could have placed him in harm if not corrected, because of her actions she found herself regarded as a danger to her husband.

She was to find herself restricted to supervised visits. Restricted to when she could visit her husband. Restricted to what room she could visit her husband in. Restricted from readily receiving information on the day-to-day care and events concerning her husband. Restricted from making decisions regarding his care. Restricted from having a say in the life and death matters that apparently are at hand.

Sara Harvey, who longs to bring her husband home to care for him, finds herself in an unspeakable position. A position that most would assume would and will never apply to them. Sara Harvey never thought it would apply to her either.

Gary Harvey has a government guardian, who never knew him prior to appointment. How would that government guardian know what Gary might have wanted or not wanted for himself? Does that guardian visit him, caress his arm and gently brush his brow, while softly talking of all the wondrous memories once shared? Does that guardian speak of hope and encourage him to be better and feel better and to look forward to the next moment and even the next day?

Or, does that guardian see Gary through strict unemotional eyes, where he is merely a decision to be made based on quality of life impaired, therefore having become nothing more than a matter of cost verses worth?

The government, business, staff, lawyers, judges and the so-called ethics committee are worried about Gary’s care? They fear that Sara will somehow harm or kill her husband if left alone with him? How ironic. How totally ironic, since it was they — not she — who sat in a meeting on May 29, 2009 and decided that Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN)–feeding tube–be withdrawn, he be made comfortable and no further interventions to be done.

A second opinion was fought for and has been granted. There is a brief reprieve. Will it be enough to make a difference, or is it merely a token meant to give the appearance of fairness, justice, compassion and nothing more?

For the sake of Gary, Sara, and those in like situations, one can only hope the reprieve is enough to bring about the ultimate decision of right to life over required and forced death.
A decision of life and compassion over the growing new world thought of putting people to sleep as easily as a stray because it is ailing and needs too much care.Sara Harvey is Gary’s wife. She wants to take him home and care for him. How can those who officially made a decision to make Gary die, claim concern over the care he might or might not receive at her hands? How can they deny her a chance of making whatever days he has left, ones that are full of love and hope and caring?

In good conscious they can’t. In reality — one never knows what the outcome will be in this new world of closed doors and unemotional, robotic decisions.

No, one ever knows, but one can always hope compassion and reason do still exist and will readily embrace the Harveys and those such as they.

Carrie Hutchens is a former law enforcement officer and a freelance writer who is active in fighting against the death culture movement and the injustices within the judicial and law enforcement systems.


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13 Responses to “Behind Closed Doors: The Gary Harvey Story”

  1. I am sympathetic to Mrs. Harvey's situation, but think it was a very unfortunate decision of hers to sabotage her husband's care. Her intentions may have been good but management of a tracheostomy is difficult at best and to have untrained family members interfere could result in injury to the patient more often than not.

  2. Dr. Theo, while I would not advise family to take matters into their own hands for the very reason you indicated, Sara cutting the fish line was the end result of a two week (or so) battle where she got “the wall” in response to her concerns and requests to fix the defective equipment. Apparently a bulb was leaking, went flat and then disappeared. The day the incident occurred, Gary had apparently been agitated and repeatedly grabbing at the fish line and pulling on it. No one seemed to care. What she did may not have been the good choice in looking back, but there is one thing no one can take from her — Sara not only told staff what she intended to do, she borrowed the scissors to do it.

  3. What do we have control of anymore if not our own bodies? Carrie Hutchens addresses a real issue that is becoming common in today's society.

  4. Thank you for telling that awful story so well.

  5. I understand, Carrie, but did Sara really understand the workings of the “fish line” and bulb? As a patient several years ago I had a well-meanig relative try to “help” when she didn't know what she was doing. It could have been bad.

    Having been a chief of staff, a member of the hospital executive committee, medical director for two extended care facilities, etc, I can tell you that there are ways to get attention that do not cross the line and interfere with complicated therapies. You just have to go over the heads of those who ignore your concerns.

    For those who find themselves similarly frustrated, demand to speak with the chief of staff and mention that your next call will be to the state licensing board, then stand back and watch the mad scramble to resolve your grievance!

    I hope Sara is successful in getting her husband home where she can care for him in the way she wishes. I'll keep them all in my prayers.

  6. Thank you for shining a bright light into the darkness of guardianship abuse.

    Guardianship legally strips a vulnerable person of all rights and liberties, leaving the “ward” at great risk of exploitation. The laws are designed to guard, conserve and protect. But, when those laws are misused or misapplied in an unlawful or abusive guardianship, families, lives, and bank accounts are destroyed. And sometimes, this guise of protection destroys life itself.

    Gary Harvey has been denied the comfort of his home and love of his wife during his greatest time of need by strangers who have complete control over every single aspect of his life. It is wrong and no amount of judicial rubber stamps or transparent statements by the Chemung County attorney can make it right.

    Gary Harvey deserves to go home. Thank you for so eloquently speaking up for him.

  7. Thank you for shining a bright light into the darkness of guardianship abuse.

    Guardianship legally strips a vulnerable person of all rights and liberties, leaving the “ward” at great risk of exploitation. The laws are designed to guard, conserve and protect. But, when those laws are misused or misapplied in an unlawful or abusive guardianship, families, lives, and bank accounts are destroyed. And sometimes, this guise of protection destroys life itself.

    Gary Harvey has been denied the comfort of his home and love of his wife during his greatest time of need by strangers who have complete control over every single aspect of his life It is wrong and no amount of judicial rubber stamps or transparent statements by the Chemung County attorney can make it right.

    Gary Harvey deserves to go home. Thank you for so eloquently speaking up for him.

  8. I know plenty of families tDr.Theo that take care of their loved ones trach and some take care of them on thier own. The risk was there regardless for sometime. Still not gives them the right to step in and take over and then ignore what they did not do in the first place. The nurse should have stopped her. the nurse should have warned her period, is that not hteir job?

  9. Dr. Theo, obviously I can't speak for Sara or to the extent of her understanding of such matters. However, she is the one that explained the technical matters to me.

    I would never encourage someone to take such action. On the other hand, to tell the story as it played out, why it played out that way and things such as that — I have/had to tell what Sara did and why she did it and what happened (or didn't happen) as a result.

    I think the point(s) we should all be considering is…

    The staff should have noticed the problem and immediately remedied it just because that is what they should have done.

    If, for whatever reason, they didn't notice — they should have been receptive to the information when told, checked it out and appropriately responded.

    Sara, nor anyone, should feel so helpless in obtaining appropriate care for their loved one.

  10. Dear Carrie,
    There are many missing piecews of information missing in this story.
    1- Why hasn't Sara mentioned Gary's children and their feelings about the things going on with their father.

  11. ArinD23, are you suggesting that Gary's children approve of their dad being starved and dehydrated to death?

  12. ArinD23, I do not know what their feelings are. They have not excersised their unrestricted visits to him for years before and after the accident. Does that help?

  13. ArinD23, I do not know what their feelings are. They have not excersised their unrestricted visits to him for years before and after the accident. Does that help?