Second family questions HCMC over end-of-life decisions

For the second time in a week, a family is complaining to FOX 9 about Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) allowing the wrong person to make end-of-life decisions for their loved one.

Nineteen-year-old Jaegger David was killed last year, and his family says the hospital worsened a bad situation.

"I don't even know if he had anybody there when he passed," said his aunt, Jessica Grayson.

Jaegger David’s family wasn’t there when he died three weeks after arriving at HCMC. They wanted to be, but they say the hospital gave control of his health decisions to an ex-girlfriend. She was the first person to visit him after a beating in March 2022.

The family didn’t know he was in the hospital for a week and initially didn’t fight the decision until their first disagreement with the girl.

"My sister wanted him to be a donor," Grayson said. "He expressed that he wanted to be a donor. The ex-girlfriend, who was 17, did not want that. And that's when things went awry."

By then, Jaegger’s mother and her family had visited him a few times, but they say the hospital abided by the girl’s decision to cut them out. So they fought to step in as his surrogate decision maker.

"They brought in a ridiculous amount of things — colorings he had donecards, birthday cards, Mother's Day cardspictures, belongings, sweatshirts, you know, all those different things to prove it," Grayson said.

Even a birth certificate wasn’t enough to change the status quo. Minnesota state law does not establish a hierarchy of who should make health care decisions for a patient who can’t make their own. HCMC management tells us their legal and ethics teams try to find someone closest to the patient, but it doesn’t have to be a family member.

"We focus on something called substituted judgment, which is when you're going to be a surrogate or decision maker for someone, you have to take that person's perspective," said Dr. Tom Klemond, Hennepin Healthcare VP of Medical Affairs.

Jaegger’s family came to us after they saw our story last week about Mark Hatcher’s family having similar frustration over who HCMC allowed to make end-of-life decisions.

Like Hatcher’s family, they say the hospital amplified their emotional turmoil.

"So the murderers did the first attack, but HCMC really I mean, really just assaulted us almost more," Grayson said.

The Minnesota Department of Health investigates complaints against hospitals, but in the last 11 years, it has no record of completed investigations into complaints like these at HCMC.

Both families tell us they intend to document theirs. A healthcare directive should make sure families avoid these situations.

The U of M Extension service has a Minnesota Health Care Directive Planning Toolkit.

The Minnesota AG’s office has a form for a HealthCare Directive on their website.

The Minnesota Board on Aging has a number of resources and explanations on its website.