Florida’s First District Court of Appeal has expedited the process to decide a lawsuit filed by the family of a COVID-19 patient on a ventilator at a Jacksonville hospital.
Attorneys for Mayo Clinic Florida have until 10 a.m. Jan. 13 to respond to the appeal filed by the family of 70-year-old Daniel Pisano.
Then the family’s attorneys will have until Jan. 14 to file additional arguments. At that time, a three-panel judge could be appointed to decide the case.
Mayo Clinic has said Pisano, who has been on a ventilator 22 days, has a slim chance of survival.
But an outside doctor, who is not affiliated with Mayo Clinic, testified in an emergency hearing Dec. 30 that there’s still a good chance to save him—although there’s no time to delay, the physician said.
In a desperate attempt to save their loved one, the Pisano family has begged Mayo Clinic to try a protocol widely used by independent physicians around the country and developed by the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance.
Mayo Clinic officials have refused and attorneys have fought the family’s wishes vigorously in court.
Claudia Pisano, Daniel Pisano’s wife of 51 years, and their son, Chris, have power of attorney and legally have the right to ask for the treatment of their choice, their attorneys have argued. But Daniel Pisano is declining fast and running out of time, they say.
The family’s trusted doctor, Dr. Eduardo Balbona of Jacksonville, testified that in order to save him the hospital must quickly allow treatment—with ivermectin and other drugs and supplements—he’s used to help dozens of critically ill COVID-19 patients recover.
Being on the ventilator is doing harm to Pisano and other patients fighting COVID-19, Balbona testified.
After considering the testimony in the three-hour hearing, Judge Marianne Aho, of Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit, denied the family’s plea to force Mayo Clinic doctors to step aside and let Balbona treat their dying loved one.
Aho wrote, “An individual’s right to privacy is one of self-determination, the right to accept or refuse. It is not a right to demand a particular treatment. It is not a right to substitute one’s judgment as to which treatments must be made available by others. There is no right, constitutional or otherwise, of a patient to substitute one’s judgment for a medical professional.”
The family disagrees saying the Florida Patient’s Bill of Rights gives them the right to choose between treatment options and they’ve offered to release Mayo Clinic from all liability in following through with that care. They filed an appeal Jan. 9.
After Mayo Clinic submits a response by Jan. 13, attorneys for the family will have until 3 p.m. on Jan. 14 to add to their arguments.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 12 Daniel Pisano clung to life in a drug-induced coma, on a ventilator, and on his sixth day of dialysis for kidneys that have shut down.
Doctors monitoring his chart for the family through an online portal say his lab work suggests internal bleeding, says attorney Nick Whitney, of the AndersonGlenn law firm in Jacksonville.
For days, Chris and Claudia Pisano have begged Mayo Clinic to do a CT scan to identify the cause of the bleeding.
“Mayo has refused, saying the CT scan is not medically appropriate,” Whitney says.
Mayo Clinic officials have not responded to requests for comment. Attorneys for the hospital have asked for their filings in the case be sealed from pubic view, citing privacy concerns.
The family’s search to find a hospital able to take Daniel Pisano has led only to dead-ends, Whitney said.
Still the Pisanos hope to continue raising money through donations to keep their legal fight going and to be able to pay$40,000 to $50,000 for air ambulance transport.
As of Jan. 12, 142 donors had given more than $28,000 toward the effort.
Since news of the case began spreading other families facing similar heartbreak have reached out to Whitney and to Jeff Childers, of Childers Law in Gainesville, another attorney on the Pisano legal team.
And on Jan. 12, a patient was driving from Chicago to Florida to meet with Balbona.
Whitney said it’s not easy for patients to find a doctor like Balbona willing to step up and make an alternative treatment plan for a patient hospitalized with COVID-19. And that’s the first step, he’s told those who have contacted him.
Families desperate for help say they don’t know where to turn, he said.
When they reach out for help through independent doctors, they’re told that the person can’t take on more cases, he added.
“The bottleneck, in my opinion, is that physicians who are willing to do this are overwhelmed,” Whitney said. “There’s a need for intensive care physicians to come forward and say they’re willing to treat with ivermectin.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has posted strict warnings against using ivermectin to treat COVID-19.
More than 90 peer-reviewed studies have been published, which supporters say demonstrates the drug’s efficacy at treating patients suffering from COVID-19.
Part of the frustration families face when they’re seeking alternative treatments for COVID-19 surrounds the Right to Try Act signed into law May 30, 2018.
It gives patients access to some unapproved treatments, if they have been diagnosed with life-threatening diseases or conditions, have tried all approved treatment options, and are unable to participate in a clinical trial to access certain unapproved treatments, according to the FDA.
But ivermectin and other drugs used as part of the FLCCC protocol for treating COVID-19 have already been approved by the FDA for some uses, so they don’t qualify to be used under the Right to Try Act.
“Right to Try only applies to experimental medications,” says Childers. “It says nothing about FDA-approved meds like fluvoxamine, ivermectin, or hydroxychloroquine.”
The Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit American academic medical center employing more than 4,500 physicians and scientists and 58,400 other staff members across campuses in Florida, Minnesota, and Arizona.