Wasilla hunting guide hospitalized at Providence becomes ward of state

zhollander@adn.comMarch 8, 2014 

The Free Bret Bohn Facebook page was established on December 15, 2013.


A state-appointed guardian is now making decisions for Bret Bohn, the 27-year-old Wasilla hunting guide at the center of a medical custody battle since he entered Providence Alaska Medical Center in October.

An Anchorage Superior Court judge last month ruled Bohn was too incapacitated by a brain infection to make his own medical decisions.

Rejecting a petition filed by his parents, Judge Erin Marston gave the state's Adult Protective Services Division the power to make all decisions for Bohn, according to a court order handed down on Feb. 7.

The judge based his decision in part on comments made by Glenn Bohn and Lorraine Phillips that they wanted their son removed from the hospital and taken off his medications, according to the order, first published on the website of Police State USA.

Marston also said protests by family and friends held outside the hospital in December -- with "Free Bret Bohn" signs accusing the hospital of imprisoning and poisoning Bohn -- indicated that the family might backtrack from sworn testimony that they would follow hospital recommendations.

"Mr. Bohn's parents have been unwilling to adopt the doctors' directives and place their own personal beliefs and suspicions above what was originally directed by the (power of attorney): to take reasonable measures to save Mr. Bohn's life," he wrote.

Bohn and Phillips are weighing an appeal, attorney Mario Bird said Wednesday.

The situation grew out of the family's frustration after doctors at Providence struggled to find a cause for Bohn's seizures, delirium and other medical problems, according to the court order and their attorney.

A spokesman for Providence said that under federal privacy laws, the hospital can't discuss specifics regarding patient care. He also said Bohn isn't listed in the hospital's patient directory. Patients listed as "no information" don't show up on directories.

Bohn and Phillips blamed potent psychiatric drugs administered against his will for their son's deteriorating condition and wanted him transferred to a psychiatric facility, according to the court order.

"They believe Providence doctors may have committed medical malpractice and may be trying to hide the error by keeping their son in the hospital or by sending him to another medical facility in the states," the order says.

The document provides a timeline for the hospitalization, which began in mid-October:

Bohn suffered severe insomnia while guiding a bear hunt in early October, which he blamed on steroids he was taking for nasal polyps. Friends describe him as outgoing and hard-working, the kind of guy who'd sooner have a drink of water than take an aspirin for a headache.

The hallucinations that followed led him and his parents to the Providence emergency room on Oct. 16.

Doctors prescribed an anxiety drug and a sleep aid and sent him home but Bohn started having seizures the next night. The family returned to the hospital, where Bohn appeared delirious and unable to answer questions.

It wasn't until January -- nearly three months later -- that a diagnosis came: autoimmune encephalitis, an uncommon disorder that can look like a psychiatric problem at first but usually becomes more medically recognizable when symptoms like seizures start, experts say.

Bohn and Phillips now support the way the hospital is treating their son, Bird said, but for months, no one could tell them what was wrong with him and no one complied with requests for medical records.

"Their position from the beginning has been please tell us what you're doing and why are you doing it?" he said.

Testimony described in the Feb. 7 court order, however, shows that some observers saw the potential for harm in the way the family was handling the situation.

The Anchorage attorney Bohn's parents first asked to represent them developed "very serious concerns" for Bohn's safety, according to the court order.

Rhonda Butterfield, described as a family friend, said Phillips told her, " 'I would rather (Bret) die in my arms than have any more drugs' and added that she would 'start making funeral arrangements' for Mr. Bohn," the judge wrote. Phillips also told friends she hoped her son killed himself and told someone she "should have shot him while I had the chance."

Butterfield alerted the hospital, according to the order.

Providence staff also told the judge that Phillips coached her son to refuse drugs and restrained him against his medical team's orders, according to Marston's ruling. Bohn became agitated when his mother visited, it said.

Providence on Oct. 25 limited the family to one visiting hour a day and told them they could no longer make decisions about Bohn's medical care, Bird said.

Providence restricts visitation when a patient requests no visitors or when restricting visitation is medically necessary and in the best interests of the patient, according to a hospital statement.

The state filed for emergency temporary guardianship on Nov. 5 and received it during a Nov. 14 hearing, Bird said.

Bohn and Phillips got no notice of the hearing and weren't there, he said.

Phillips last saw her son on Dec. 3, according to a statement from the family's law firm, Ross & Miner. As of last week, his father had seen him once since Christmas, Bird said.

Phillips said she couldn't comment because of the confidential nature of the case.

"Bret is now owned by Providence and the state of Alaska," she said. "We love him dearly and truly miss him."

Bohn gave his parents power of attorney over his health care decisions back in 2007, the order states.

State statute lists priorities for judges when appointing guardians. Parents rank third. Public agencies like the state rank seventh.

Other relatives say the judge should have appointed a family member rather than a state guardian.

"(W)e know beyond a doubt that all of this is against Bret's wishes," his aunt, Jo Phillips, a resident of Boise, Idaho, said in a petition filed Wednesday at Change.org. "Bret would have never agreed to all of these drugs. It seems Providence should have weaned Bret off of the drugs to find out his true condition before they just started drugging and testing further."

Marston, in his order, wrote he chose the state because he didn't think relatives could "exercise independent judgement."

Bohn himself did not testify during the guardianship hearing last month. Marston decided, against the parents' wishes, that would be "inappropriate" given Bohn's condition, which videos showed as emotionless and lacking independent thought.

In the February order, the judge gave Glenn Bohn access to his son's medical records and "reasonable consultations" with doctors and caregivers.

He also urged doctors to start allowing family visits "as soon as medically possible."

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.


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