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Bouvia Attorneys File New Suit : Court Asked to Prevent Decrease of Painkillers

Times Staff Writer

Attorneys for quadriplegic Elizabeth Bouvia, who last week won court approval from a state appellate court to starve herself to death, filed suit on Monday to prevent a Los Angeles County hospital from weaning her from the painkilling narcotic morphine.

Bouvia, who suffers from cerebral palsy and arthritis, has been administered morphine since last November and is now “clearly addicted to it,” said attorney Richard Scott, who heads a team of volunteer American Civil Liberties Union lawyers representing her.

Bouvia’s attorneys said the county’s High Desert Hospital in Lancaster informed her last Tuesday that doctors planned to gradually cut back her level of morphine.

‘Medical Decision’

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The next day, the 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld Bouvia’s demand that the hospital remove a force-feeding tube, which had been inserted in January to prevent further weight loss.

Scott said the decision to wean Bouvia of morphine was a “medical decision” that should not have been made without her permission. “Elizabeth refuses to consent to it.”

On Friday, when the slight decreases in the periodic dosage of the painkiller began, a spokeswoman for the county Health Department said doctors felt the use of morphine “was not commensurate” with the pain Bouvia was experiencing.

Scott argued Monday that any cut in the level of morphine means psychological trauma for Bouvia, who was originally given permission to have the drug while at County-USC Medical Center. The treatment was continued when she was transferred to the Lancaster hospital in December.

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Her lawsuit, filed in the form of an emergency petition to the court of appeal, asks that a writ be issued prohibiting any decrease in the morphine dosage or the removal of a catheter through which the drug is administered.


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