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Controversy surrounds hospitalization of Anchorage man taken into adult custody

  • Author: Laurel Andrews
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published February 26, 2014

The situation of a young man who has been hospitalized for months in Anchorage has recently garnered media attention, with his family alleging that he is being held against his will and forced to take psychotropic drugs that he neither wants nor needs.

The state has taken 27-year-old Bret Bohn into adult protective custody after a ruling in Anchorage Superior Court that the man's parents were interfering with his treatment, including coaching him not to take medication prescribed by doctors and allegations that his mother said she would rather he die in her arms than continue receiving the drugs.

Bohn has been in the care of Providence Alaska Medical Center since being admitted in late October 2013. His ordeal first began in early October when he began to experience bouts of insomnia while guiding a bear hunt on the Alaska Peninsula, according to a court order from Feb. 7 first released by Police State USA. (Court records in Bohn's case have been sealed; Police State USA did not say how it obtained the document.) He attributed the insomnia to his use of the steroid prednisone, which was prescribed to him for the treatment of nasal polyps from which he had suffered since 2010.

Bohn's insomnia and disorientation continued after he returned from the bear hunt. His parents, mother Lorraine Phillips-Bohn and father Glen Bohn, took their son to Providence Alaska Medical Center on Oct. 16. He had not slept in 11 days, his mother said. He was prescribed lorazepam and zolpidem and was released. The next evening, after taking the medication, Bohn began suffering seizures, the court order states.

Bohn had few medical issues before October, Phillips-Bohn said Wednesday. A graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage Aviation and Technology program, Bohn worked as a hunting guide and rarely took medications.

Bohn returned to Providence three days later as his condition continued to deteriorate. He became unresponsive and fell into delirium while admitted. An immediate diagnosis was unknown.

Phillips-Bohn said on Oct. 23 that Bohn was unhappy with his medical care and wanted to leave Providence. Phillips-Bohn was planning on taking him to Alaska Regional Hospital. "I guess I was kind of old school and I thought that a little bit of counseling" would help his insomnia, she said.

That's when the doctor declared that he needed to stay. The hospital "called security and threatened to trespass me," Phillips-Bohn said. She stated that she advised her son to stay and had no intention of taking him out of the hospital.

Bohn had granted his parents a general power of attorney and health care power of attorney in 2007, giving them power to make decisions regarding his medical care. "However, conflicts soon developed between medical staff and Mr. Bohn's parents," the court order states. Bohn's parents wanted him to cease using medications and leave the hospital right away. They refused medical advice from Providence doctors, who advised them that their son was "gravely ill" and could die if he left the hospital, it states.

The document states that "Ms. Phillips began to intentionally interrupt and interfere with Mr. Bohn's care," at one point physically restraining her son in front of doctors as they asked her to stop, as well as counseling him not to take the prescribed medications.

Testimony from family friend and former attorney Rhonda Butterfield also stated that she had "very serious concerns" for Bohn's safety following comments his mother had made regarding his care in late October. Butterfield testified that Phillips had said she "would rather (Bohn) die in my arms than have any more drugs," and that she would "start making funeral arrangements."

Phillips allegedly expressed to friends her wish that Bohn commit suicide, as "then he won't be in any institution." She allegedly stated that "I should have shot him while I had the chance."

Butterfield discontinued her legal representation of Bohn's parents and informed Providence that she believed Bohn's parents could potentially put him in harm's way. The hospital then instituted security measures surrounding Bohn, and visitation rights were reduced and then ended, saying that Bohn became agitated after visits due to increased stimuli. Phillips-Bohn said she last saw her son in early December.

Phillips-Bohn said the allegations regarding her desire for her son to die are false. "They're lies and someone else's thoughts, and then (the court) ran with it," she said.

Bohn's family, using their power of attorney, continued to ask Providence to cease the use of psychotropic drugs. In November, the hospital requested assistance from the state for guardianship of Bohn, the order states. The Office of Public Advocacy was appointed temporary guardian, to which Bohn's parents objected, bringing the matter before the Superior Court in Anchorage. The family also opposed the transfer of Bohn to a Johns Hopkins medical facility in Maryland, filed by Providence in late December.

In January, Bohn was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis, an infection in which a person's immune system attacks parts of the brain.

The court order states that six neurologists have examined Bohn and concluded he is in "dire need of treatment." The diagnosis is "severe and not steadily improving. Very important lifesaving decisions need to be made in the near future and warrant a guardian appointment in this case," it reads.

Twelve days of testimony in late January in Superior Court resulted in the appointment of full guardianship to the Office of Public Advocacy. Bohn was appointed a guardian of the state, who now communicates to the family regarding his condition and makes decisions regarding his care.

The court order states that the parents' "deep distrust" of Providence medical practitioners, testimony regarding Phillips-Bohn's threats toward her son, and protests outside of Providence in December in which the family picketed for Bohn's release made the re-appointment of the family's power of attorney inappropriate. Bohn's extended family was similarly ruled to be ineligible as guardians, given their non-acceptance of doctors' recommendations.

The order also points to the Facebook page "Free Bret Bohn," which advocates for Bohn to be released from Providence's care. The page states that it is not affiliated with the family, and Phillips-Bohn denied knowing who was running the page. There was no response Wednesday to requests for the identity of the page's administrator.

Phillips-Bohn said she "made a mistake" in taking her son to the hospital. She maintains that the drugs being administered to Bohn are contributing to his illness. But did the family ever think that the doctor's professional opinions were correct?

"They never sat down with us to explain why he needed (psychotropic drugs)," Phillips-Bohn said. "They just said that they were still doing tests" while his condition continued to worsen.

Phillips-Bohn said she received an email on Wednesday stating that she would be able to visit her son, but that she wouldn't be able to bring in cameras or a phone or have legal representation. She's not sure if she'll go see him yet, given these conditions and what she said was the possibility of more allegations against her.

"My son doesn't trust the staff, and we don't trust the staff. And we have every reason to," Phillips-Bohn said.

"I pray every day that they release him."

Bohn's aunt Jo Phillips said Bohn's condition is "devastating." She also said the allegations made against Phillips-Bohn are false. "This is not Lorraine's character -- that she would ever harm her son," Phillips said.

Phillips said she believes that Providence is "trying to hide something. They don't want anybody to see Bret," she said. She called the hospital's actions "suspicious."

"We're very concerned about Bret's condition and the side effects of all these drugs," Phillips said.

The court order states that "Mr. Bohn remains in Providence today, having been in the hospital over three months."

When asked about Bohn, Providence spokesperson Michael Canfield said he is not listed in the hospital's patient directory, which can mean several things. The patient may no longer be staying at the hospital, or a guardian can chose to remove a patient's name from the directory while they continue care at the medical center. Citing federal privacy laws, the hospital stated that it cannot discuss specifics regarding patient care.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter @Laurel_Andrews.

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