By Dorothy Knightly
My husband, William F. Knightly Jr., died on April 26, 2017, from untreated sepsis, which he contracted at a New Hampshire hospital while under the “care” of a hospice and palliative care specialist.
In early February 2017, my husband had lung and lymph node biopsies with negative results. The oncologist said they didn’t know if he had kidney cancer and wouldn’t know unless they took out his kidney. William refused. If there was nothing wrong with it, he said, they would take it out for nothing. The oncologist wasn’t happy. His whole demeanor changed toward my husband and me.
After having the biopsies, William started getting weak. The oncologist prescribed Cipro (an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections). He had all the side effects listed for Cipro, but the doctor overlooked them and just assumed that my husband was dying of lung cancer.
Hospitalized by deception
We refused when the doctor asked if William wanted to be admitted to hospice care. My husband told the doctor that he didn’t want to die; he wanted treatment. The doctor responded that my husband would be admitted to the hospital for a short time to get his strength back and his pain controlled.
On March 16, 2017, my husband walked into the hospital on his own two feet and was admitted, at which time he was given Dilaudid (a pain-control medication) intravenously. The next day, William told me that a man visited him. We weren’t told this man was a hospice and palliative care (HPC) physician who was there to handle William’s pain medication. The doctor started him on 15 milligrams of MS Contin (extended-release morphine) twice a day and 15 milligrams of morphine every four hours if needed for breakthrough pain. Without his knowledge or consent, William had been admitted to hospice.
Insidious secrecy, serious abuse, and life-threatening neglect
Frequent lab tests were performed. Sepsis (a life-threatening blood infection) and other illnesses were found, but at that time, we weren’t informed about them, and William wasn’t given any treatment for these illnesses.
In the hospital, my husband was diagnosed with cancer of the lung, kidney, and spine. During the first week there, he walked with a walker, ate, drank, talked, joked, and even played the harmonica with our two-year-old granddaughter.
The HPC doctor kept increasing the dosage of oral morphine until it was up to 225 milligrams daily. He was given morphine every four hours for breakthrough pain and extended-release morphine every eight hours. I’m positive of this because, after my husband died, I reviewed every page of his medical records.
During the second week, William stopped walking, eating, and talking. All he did was sleep. My family and I pleaded for a feeding tube because he kept losing weight, but our request was refused. They told us that it would require surgery and that he couldn’t have surgery.
On March 23, against my husband’s wishes, he received five rounds of radiation on his spine for the supposed tumors on his L3 vertebra. After his death, I reviewed his medical records. They did not indicate that he had any tumors, but did show he had spinal stenosis and a fractured spine in five places. Again, we weren’t informed about these conditions, and he received no treatment for them.
The staff wasn’t supposed to wake my husband to give him pain pills, but they woke him anyway. When he refused pain medications during the night, he was finally lucid enough to tell me that he had to get out of there—because they were trying to kill him. He was right.
I complained to one of the nurses that my husband was being given too much morphine. She agreed, then told me they were having a meeting and would discuss it. After the meeting, the morphine dosage was lowered slightly, but he kept sleeping and was very weak.
On April 6, the hospital finally agreed to discharge William. He was in much worse shape than when he was admitted. While the palliative care doctor was in his room, the hospitalist came to see William. The hospitalist woke him and asked if he was in pain. My husband answered, “I don’t know.” The hospitalist got angry and said, “If he doesn’t know if he’s in pain, he isn’t. He’s being overmedicated. I’m taking over his medication right now.” The palliative care doctor left the room. We never saw him again.
Obsessed with death
My husband went home that day in an ambulance. He had pressure ulcers (bedsores) on his lower back, and I think he was still suffering from sepsis, one symptom of which is diarrhea. On the second day he was home, after being prescribed Marinol (a drug used to relieve nausea and vomiting), William started eating again. He seemed to be doing well, even though he couldn’t walk because he was weak from the morphine still in his system.
We opted for home health care. The home health care nurse was supposed to be the only nurse he would see. We very explicitly stated that we did not want hospice nurses because all they talk about is death. Nevertheless, they sent an HPC nurse-practitioner (NP) without telling us who she was. My husband didn’t want to die, but, true to form, all she talked about for three straight days was death. It sent my husband over the edge. On April 18, I thought William had a stroke. I didn’t find out until I read his medical file, after his death, that he had suffered a heart attack—not a stroke.
Before the NP arrived that day, my son and I were visiting with my husband. He was talking and happy. Here is what we witnessed: The NP mentioned the HPC doctor’s name. My husband threw up his arms and tried to yell. The NP saw him have the heart attack, but she did nothing except suggest giving him Haldol for agitation. I wouldn’t let her. I told her he was fine until she came in ranting about death. When she left, he lay there with his mouth wide open and his eyes half shut. I called his primary care physician and told her what happened.
The home health care nurse phoned that night to tell us the NP was no longer allowed to come to our house and that she would be there the next day.
More hospital horrors
When the nurse arrived on April 19, she saw that William was dehydrated, so she called 911. An ambulance took him back to the hospital. In the emergency room, we were informed that he only had a couple of hours to live. Still, no one said anything about a heart attack or sepsis. They kept saying he was dying of cancer.
William was moved to the ICU that evening. They didn’t want to give him an IV, but I insisted. After doing blood work, they said he had an infection. They weren’t sure what or where it was, so they put him on IV antibiotics. The antibiotics were stopped that evening without our permission. We thought the infection had been caught in time and treated. Why else would they discontinue lifesaving antibiotics?
His hemoglobin count was 7.5. If it went down to seven, they said he could get a blood transfusion. Also, his white blood cell count was extremely high (24,000), so they took him off the saline and gave him dextrose (sugar). He then became responsive. He shook his head for yes and no and held my hand.
On the next morning, he was moved to a room on the fifth floor and given a saline IV again. He lay there with his mouth wide open and his eyes half shut, unable to drink or talk. I requested a CAT scan to see if he’d had a stroke. I also requested more blood tests because I thought he might need a transfusion. The hospitalist denied my request: “Why waste the blood on him when someone bleeding to death could use it more?”
I arranged to transfer William to a cancer hospital. Two physicians were waiting for him there, but the hospitalist refused to give him a referral. Next, they wanted to put him on a morphine drip. I refused. My husband was responsive enough to shake his head no. He also refused the flu shot they tried to give him. He was afraid they were going to kill him.
I stayed with him 24/7, holding his hand. We both feared for his life. He was responsive until the day before his death. On Wednesday, April 26, my husband finally gave up and died, with his family present and me still holding his hand.
After examining his medical file, I found out he had a urinary tract infection that wasn’t treated. Also, the hospital’s vice president of patient affairs told me my husband did not have kidney cancer. In fact, his medical records didn’t indicate that there was anything wrong with his kidneys. His file did reveal that he’d suffered a heart attack. The undertaker, who had a copy of William’s death certificate, told me that my husband had died of sepsis—not cancer.
I sent documentation concerning William’s death to the New Hampshire Medical Board. After going through his paperwork, they found that, even though we did not want a do not resuscitate (DNR) order and there was no signed DNR in his medical records, my husband was ILLEGALLY given DNR status—that is, no attempt was made to resuscitate him.
An urgent warning
Our loved ones are dying because hospice and palliative care providers are getting away with illegal euthanasia. That is, patients’ lives are being intentionally ended by denial of lifesaving and life-sustaining medical treatment, and instead are being drugged into oblivion. This needs to end. People must be warned so they can protect their loved ones. I’m telling my painful story to help expose the horrific and increasingly common practice of stealth euthanasia* to a mostly unsuspecting public.
*“Stealth euthanasia” means deliberately hastening a patient’s death while pretending to provide appropriate treatment and care. Actions and omissions intended to cause death are disguised or hidden from those who may object, such as concerned family members.
Editor’s note: When a person (patient) is in the hospital and/or receiving hospice and/or palliative care, it is wise for the patient, family, medical power of attorney agent (proxy), or legal guardian to frequently check the patient’s medical records. Look for new medication orders or dosage changes, discontinuation of usual medications (such as blood pressure medications, insulin, etc.; results of lab tests and other medical tests; and secret DNR orders.
Trust your gut. If you are uneasy or suspicious about something that you’re being told, or that is being done or not being done to the patient, ask doctors and nurses questions and request honest answers. If you don’t understand what medical personnel are saying, ask them to explain in terms you can understand. If you’re still concerned, seek a second opinion. In a situation where a patient’s life is in danger, legal assistance may be necessary. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or help.
HALO’s “Drugs Commonly Used in Hospice and Palliative Care” fact sheet is a useful guide for patients and their medical decision makers who have questions about medications, their side effects, or pain control in general. It may be downloaded at https://halorganization.com/pdf/drug-sheet.pdf.
My husband, Tony, was 80. He did not have cancer, heart disease, or any terminal illness. He had moderate dementia and was disabled from a stroke suffered on August 2, 2017. After the stroke, he needed a wheelchair to get around. Although he continued to have mini-strokes, Tony did not complain of pain or headaches. He was able to converse, answer questions, smile, and pray his Rosary. He said “I love you” often. We rolled his wheelchair up to the table and he fed himself.
After spending a couple of months in two different facilities for rehabilitation, Tony moved home under my care and the care of paid caregivers. On November 1, 2017, I signed him up for hospice care, as I thought hospice was compassionate and would provide the supplies and nursing care he needed. On her first visit, the hospice nurse brought a bag full of the “end-of-life” drugs they planned to use. I did not understand why I needed these drugs, but dutifully put the bag in the back of my refrigerator as advised. I have since learned that most hospices today do provide several drugs to have on hand and use according to standing orders.
Unwanted sedation and shocking neglect
On January 15, 2018, hospice offered to give me a “caregiver’s respite” for five days, as I was having health problems. Tony was admitted to the respite care wing of a nursing home where I visited him every day. Arriving about noon on January 16, I found Tony unable to sit up in his wheelchair. When I sought an explanation, a nurse told me that he had been given the sedative Ativan (brand name for lorazepam). I was livid. I had previously made it clear that no sedatives should be given to Tony because he was highly sensitive to any drugs affecting the brain. I called the hospice nurse and told her to stop this drug immediately and that he was never to be given it again.
It was difficult to care for Tony at home because I was suffering from angina and stress-related high blood pressure, so he was moved to another wing of the nursing home on January 20. This began four months of a shocking lack of care despite my frequent complaints and visits with the administrator. Because it was extremely understaffed, the nursing home was neglecting Tony. He fell on the floor several times while trying to take himself to the bathroom. I decided it was time to move him home.
Looking back, I feel I should have seen a red flag the first time he was given a sedative in violation of my explicit instructions.
Home again and happy, but not for long
Tony came home on May 1. Getting lots of hugs and attention, my husband was happy at home. He loved feeding the deer off the back porch and watching old classic movies. The hospice nurses presented a professional appearance. They arranged for aides to give him showers at home, and a nurse came once a week to take his vital signs. I made special foods for him and gave him nutritional supplements. We were grateful we had bought long-term care insurance because it meant he was able to have a steady stream of caregivers throughout the day. Everything went very well for about two weeks. Then Tony had symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI).
The hospice nurse brought in Levaquin, an antibiotic frequently used to treat UTIs and other infections. Tony soon developed tendonitis in his left shoulder, painful abdominal cramps, and extreme weakness, as well as nausea and vomiting. Some of those symptoms may have been caused by the liquid Tylenol used to reduce his fever and pain, but tendonitis is a side effect of Levaquin. The hospice nurse said that, since he was in pain, she should give Tony Ativan to calm him down. Tony wasn’t agitated in the least, but I wanted him to be comfortable and, unfortunately, did not question her. Later I would realize that the Levaquin should have been stopped when the tendonitis developed, it should have been replaced with a different antibiotic, and Ativan should not have been given. But, at the time, I trusted the hospice nurse.
After seven days on Levaquin and with the addition of Ativan, he became so weak that he could not sit up in his wheelchair and soon became bedridden. The hospice nurse gave us a book to read about the symptoms of dying, so I was encouraged to view his symptoms as part of “the death process.”
A deadly combination
I could see that Tony was becoming dehydrated and was desperate to get fluids into him. Though bedridden, at first Tony could still feed himself. The hospice nurse coached us to give him more Ativan. Caregivers helped feed and hydrate him, but he was soon unable to swallow. Hospice provided thickener for his juice, but I asked for IV hydration. The hospice nurse refused. She responded, “He doesn’t need that!”
On June 5, my daughter moved in to give me support. We were told Tony was dying and to just keep him comfortable, which seemed to mean we were to give him steady doses of Ativan and morphine, closer and closer together, and more and more. Tony was sleeping all the time. At night he went into periods of delirium. At some point, the nurse also gave him Haldol, an antipsychotic drug. I can’t imagine why this drug was given. I believe now that Tony was a victim of stealth euthanasia.
Tony had never complained of pain until he was given Levaquin. While in hospice, a doctor signed the nurse’s orders electronically without seeing Tony. Tony’s vitals had been very good until hospice introduced one drug after another: Levaquin, Ativan, Haldol, and morphine. If Tony had been given hydration, nutrition, and appropriate care for his UTI, I believe he would be alive today. The omission of appropriate care and medical treatment, and a lethal combination of drugs sealed his fate. On June 10, 2018, my husband died. I miss him.
Tony’s death certificate is a complete fraud. It says the cause of death was “coronary heart disease,” but he had a strong heart. He had been thoroughly examined by doctors prior to his admission to hospice and had no history of heart disease. The hospice nurses handled the whole thing. No hospice doctor ever examined Tony.
About a week after Tony’s death, I awoke from a sound sleep in the middle of the night with a startling realization. I never should have trusted the hospice. Since I gave him the drugs and didn’t insist on getting him real medical care when he needed it the most, I failed him and myself. I felt like I had killed him. It was all my fault. He was clearly dehydrated to death, and the use of constant sedation was an attempt to mask his agony. I will carry this pain for the rest of my life.
Note from HALO: Some of us have had experiences like Gloria’s. We suspect or know that a loved one’s death was deliberately caused by healthcare providers we thought we could trust. We understand the pain and guilt Gloria expresses. When a loved one is sick, family members often are very vulnerable due to anxiety, stress, and exhaustion. We cannot blame ourselves for trusting and being deceived by charlatans who practice stealth euthanasia. However, we can do something very important to help others avoid being victims of such crimes.
We can use what we’ve learned from Gloria’s and our own experiences to educate our relatives, friends, and others about the dangers they or their loved ones may face in the healthcare system. We can also tell them that HALO is here to help them with immediate assistance when it’s needed to save a life. Simply email email@example.com.
Another resource is the Hospice Patients Alliance. There is a great deal of valuable information on its website (www.hospicepatients.org) about what should be done and should not be done in hospice. All the information is there so people can make sure that these killings are not allowed to happen.
Some hospices provide excellent end-of-life care. Nevertheless, people need to be warned that many hospices today practice stealth euthanasia. Forewarned is forearmed.
 Ron Panzer, LPN, BSN, the president of Hospice Patients Alliance, told the editor of HALO Monthly, “This is part of the death protocol, to sedate the patient so they cannot eat or drink. Tony certainly should not have been given more Ativan! The solution was not IV hydration. The solution was to stop the Ativan. And with any antibiotic, it is important that the patient get more fluids (as Gloria wanted to do), not less (which would occur with sedation). Giving antibiotics—or any other medication that requires the kidneys to flush it out—without fluids is a method of stealth euthanasia because it kills the kidneys.”
 “Stealth euthanasia” means deliberately hastening a patient’s death while pretending to provide appropriate treatment and care. Actions and omissions intended to cause death are disguised or hidden from those who may object, such as concerned family members.