Wasilla guide case puts spotlight on state guardian program

zhollander@adn.comMarch 8, 2014 

A high-profile case involving the appointment of a state guardian for a 27-year-old Wasilla hunting guide hospitalized for nearly five months with a brain infection is getting attention from a well-known crusader against forced psychiatric drugging.

An Anchorage Superior Court judge last month appointed a state guardian to make medical and all other decisions for Bret Bohn at Providence Alaska Medical Center over the objections of his parents and other family members.

State officials couldn't release any information about the guardian assigned Bohn due to confidentiality restrictions.

It's pretty clear he or she is busy.

The state's adult guardians work with an average of 80 clients each, according to Elizabeth Russo, supervising attorney for the public guardian sector. In a hospital setting, they rely on national medical decision-making standards and try to make decisions based on what their clients would want.

A judge must assign a guardian, Russo said.

"You can't just walk into a room and say I'm now your guardian," she said. "The individual has due process rights that are taken into account. Courts don't make these decisions lightly."

But Jim Gottstein, an Anchorage attorney and co-founder of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, said the Bohn case illustrates an "incestuous" relationship between the state and hospitals when it comes to the guardian process.

A guardian rarely, if ever, questions a hospital's decisions, he said.

A hospital spokesman said Providence does not comment on the details of patient cases and could not confirm that Bohn was hospitalized there.

Gottstein, who is not representing Bohn, last week filed a petition asking Judge Erin Marston to open the case to the public.

Marston's Feb. 7 court order giving the state guardianship was only made public last week after the document was leaked to and published by the website Police State USA; the rest of the file remains confidential.

A site administrator didn't return questions asking about the source of the document. The Bohn family's attorney said it did not come from his office.

Gottstein said the guardianship issue, as well as what he called the judge's "extremely cavalier" decision not to let Bohn testify, compelled him to get involved.

"The confidentiality of these proceedings, especially in light of the incestuous relationships involved, raises grave concerns about their fairness," he wrote in a letter to Marston. "These concerns have manifested themselves publicly in this case."

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


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