Mother of Bret Bohn faces kidnapping charges in medical custody battle

mtheriault@adn.comApril 28, 2014 Updated 7 hours ago

The mother of Bret Bohn, a 27-year-old Wasilla man whose mysterious brain illness landed him at the center of a high-profile medical custody saga, was arrested for kidnapping her son from a Seattle hospital Friday.

Court documents filed in Seattle say that Lorraine Phillips of Anchorage shoved a hospital orderly on April 22 while escorting her son Bohn into an elevator. Phillips then walked out of Harborview Medical Center with her son, the charges say.

Bohn was out of the hospital with his parents for several days before a Seattle Police Department detective tracked mother and son to a neighborhood medical clinic in Seattle, where Phillips was arrested on April 25.

Lorraine Phillips was just trying to get a second medical opinion for her son, her sister Jo Phillips told the Daily News.

The kidnapping charges against Phillips are the latest chapter in a high-profile battle for medical decision-making rights that has pitted the Bohn family against doctors at the premier hospitals in Washington and Alaska, as well as against the State of Alaska.

Bohn's case stoked the anger of critics of Alaska's state guardianship program.

An Anchorage Superior Court judge awarded sole control over the 27-year-old hunting guide's medical decisions to a paid public guardian named Steve Young in February, saying Bohn's parents had made disturbing statements about him and appeared to be interfering with treatment.

Bohn, a lifelong Alaskan, Eagle Scout and West High grad, has also become a symbol of the anti-psychiatric drugging movement, which sees him as a "medical prisoner of the state" being drugged against his and his family's wishes.

The Facebook group "Free Bret Bohn," which chronicles his now 180-day-long hospitalization, has 4,000 followers.


Bret Bohn's decline started with a bear hunting trip.

In October, he was guiding a bear hunt when he developed severe insomnia. The problem was blamed on steroids prescribed to treat nasal polyps.

His parents, Glenn Bohn and Lorraine Phillips, took him to the Providence Alaska Medical Center emergency room on Oct. 16. He was released with a prescription but ended up back in the hospital after suffering seizures and lapsing into a state of delirium.

The relationship between Bohn's family and the hospital deteriorated quickly.

By Oct. 25, the family's visitation time had been cut to an hour daily.

In November, the state received emergency temporary guardianship, the family's attorney Mario Bird told the Daily News.

It wasn't until January that Bohn was diagnosed with "autoimmune encephalitis," an infection of the brain, according to his aunt Jo Phillips.

On March 26, Bohn was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a large public hospital affiliated with the University of Washington medical school, because his "ongoing acute medical condition was not resolving with care at Providence," according to court documents filed in the kidnapping case against Lorraine Phillips.

The move was initiated by Providence, his aunt said.

His parents thought the move was a positive development at first. Bohn was given a less restrictive visiting schedule. Happy updates were posted to the Free Bret Bohn Facebook page showing Bohn eating lunch and sitting outside with his parents and family friends, dressed in a baseball cap and sweatshirt.

"Bret has been taking walks, getting outside for fresh air and sun, eating at the cafeteria, all with privacy between Bret and those visiting," one post read.

At times, Bohn's humor and personality flickered through a haze of drugs for the first time in months, Jo Phillips said.

Then the relationship between Bohn's family and his medical team again began to fray.

Family members questioned a medication change, saying the new drug was leading to a decline, according to Jo Phillips.

The parents asked that he be weaned off drugs to check his "baseline" state.

Jo Phillips said visiting hours were soon restricted.

"Then (Harborview) started talking about possibly moving him up to the fifth floor lockdown secure area," Phillips said.


On April 22, a hospital worker was escorting Bohn, who was in a wheelchair, to that locked floor, according to a Seattle Police Department detective's statement filed with the court. Lorraine Phillips was by his side.

As the orderly turned from the mother and son to punch buttons on the elevator panel, the man was "forcefully shoved from behind," out of the elevator and into the hallway.

He struck his head on a windowsill, cutting it, the statement said. When he looked back, the doors to the elevator were closed.

Phillips' family denies that she assaulted anyone.

The family spent the next few days on the run, even driving Bohn to Eugene, Ore., according to an account by the arresting detective.

"Because of Mr. Bohn's mental state, his inability to make decisions for himself due to his mental impairment, and the manner in which he was violently separated from the custody of the hospital and the provision of necessary medical care, I booked Phillips into King County Jail on charges of kidnapping," the statement said.

Jo Phillips said that her sister-in-law was just trying to help her son.

"They are watching their son go down, down, down," she said. "Their main intent is to get him a second opinion, some help."

Jo Phillips said she believes that her nephew being used as a "human experiment" by Harborview and Providence.

Providence and Harborview have both said they cannot speak about Bohn's treatment.

Harborview would not even confirm that Bohn is a patient, citing medical privacy laws.

Bohn's parents have not been allowed contact with their son since Phillips' arrest, Jo Phillips said.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.


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