A Colorado court soon will consider the request of a Columbia-HealthOne hospital that it order the transfer of a breast-cancer patient from an acute-care bed to a lower level of care against her family's wishes.
The hospital, 138-bed Columbia-Aurora (Colo.) Presbyterian Hospital, says its petition is about appropriate patient care, not financial concerns. It wants to transfer the patient, Mary Theresa Corrao, to a rehabilitation or step-down unit within its walls.
Judge Thomas Levi of Arapahoe District Court in Aurora said he will hear the opinion of a court-appointed guardian sometime this month. A date hasn't been set.
A ruling could end the 3-month-old battle between Columbia-Aurora Presbyterian and the Corrao family. The length of the dispute points to the need for a better way to resolve such care questions, said David Munch, M.D., the hospital's medical director.
Theresa Corrao, 59, is a former employee of the hospital. She has been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. In a living will, she asked that no extraordinary measures be taken to save her life. She is receiving nursing-home-level care in a higher-priced hospital setting, Munch said.
"Every physician involved has said this isn't appropriate," he said. "Why deplete assets in the acute-care setting?"
Her family argues that she may have years yet to live, so the will shouldn't apply. Moreover, in July, she signed another document requesting the performance of medical procedures to extend her life.
The Corrao family will consider Theresa Corrao's transfer to another unit when appropriate for her medical condition, said her attorney, Terrell Gaines.
Theresa Corrao was being cared for by a Denver-area hospice until May 24. She was removed from that facility by her brother, Paul Corrao, a pathologist from Maine, because he believed her condition was deteriorating due to poor care, Gaines said.
At the time, Theresa Corrao was barely speaking and unable to feed herself. Her condition has improved markedly since admission to Columbia-Aurora Presbyterian.
The court-appointed guardian has recommended that Theresa Corrao be transferred from the hospital because she has "achieved the maximum benefit possible."
Her insurance carrier, Columbia-HealthOne Insurance, has said it would cover only a few of her more than 100 days in the hospital.
Columbia-HealthOne operates six acute-care hospitals in the Denver area. It was formed last year as a joint venture of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and HealthOne.