Home > Uncategorized > DDS challenge to mother’s guardianship of her son dismissed

DDS challenge to mother’s guardianship of her son dismissed

The mother of an intellectually disabled man, who has been locked in a dispute with the Department of Developmental Services for several years over her son’s medical needs, will be able to remain as his guardian, according to a probate court agreement reached last week.

A Middlesex County Probate Court judge last week signed off on the dismissal of a year-long effort by the DDS to remove Patricia Feeley as guardian of her 27-year-old son, Michael.  DDS had filed a petition in probate court in November 2012 to appoint James Feld, an attorney, as Michael’s guardian, even though Feld had never met Michael.

The DDS’s long-running dispute with Feeley, a COFAR Board member, has centered around Feeley’s contention that Michael, who has type 1 diabetes, needs a residential care setting with 24-hour nursing.  Feeley has been trying for years to find a suitable residential placement for her son, who has lived at home his entire life.  DDS has taken the position that Michael doesn’t need round-the-clock nursing.

DDS signed a stipulation to dismiss its challenge to Feeley’s guardianship during a probate court hearing last week, according to Stephen Sheehy, an attorney representing Feeley. Sheehy said he believed that DDS “came to the hearing prepared to dismiss the case because they recognized that Pat (Feeley) was doing a good job as Michael’s guardian and this was not a proper forum to deal with a dispute over a (residential) placement.”

In filing its original petition to remove Feeley as guardian, DDS had argued that Feeley was not acting in her son’s best interest in rejecting residential placements for him that the Department had offered.  The Department’s petition also cited  excessive “clutter” in Feeley’s home as a reason for removing Feeley as guardian.  However, DDS did not allege any neglect or abuse on Feeley’s part, and even acknowledged she is devoted to her son.

Feeley said this week that she was glad of the dismissal of the guardianship challenge and hopeful “that somehow Michael will be offered a placement appropriate to his needs.  He has been waiting for six years.”  She added that, “I hope DDS will realize and take this (dismissal of the guardianship petition) as an affirmation that Michael’s needs are Michael’s needs. That’s what this is all about, not what DDS wants.”

Feeley added that DDS has never produced a clinical document to back up its contention that Michael does not need 24-hour nursing care.  Feeley, however, did provide the court with a May 28, 2010 letter from a physician at Children’s Hospital in Boston, who wrote that Michael’s blood glucose spikes at times “for no apparent reason,” and that “it is not possible to predict when that might occur.”  The doctor’s assessment continued that, “A nurse needs to be present and able to attend to Michael’s needs at any time to avoid a delay in Mike receiving appropriate medical intervention.”

Feeley said her son requires as many as seven injections of insulin per day.  He also has a profound intellectual disability, is non-verbal and is unable to dress or bathe himself.  Feeley, 65, who works as a part-time clinical lab technician and is a certified nurse assistant, currently administers the injections herself, monitors Michael’s blood glucose, and personally provides all other care at home for him.  Michael’s extensive care needs have prevented her from working full time.

We are happy that DDS has finally realized it brought its dispute with Pat Feeley over the care of her son to the wrong judicial forum.  Why DDS subjected Feeley to a frightening, year-long battle to retain guardianship and why the Department subjected taxpayers to the expense of an unnecessary probate court battle are troubling questions.

Based on what is apparently the only clinical document submitted in the case — the letter from the Children’s Hospital doctor — Michael does appear to need 24-hour nursing.   We hope the outcome of this guardianship challenge finally spurs DDS to do the right thing and find a placement appropriate to Michael’s needs.

  1. November 26, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I am pleased Mrs. Feeley, that the case against you has been dismissed. I am an RN who has also had to advocate, with other members of my family, for my uncle who is intellectually/developmentally delayed and requires institutional care to maintain his safety and well-being. You, with input from medical experts such as the doctor at Children’s Hospital, know your son and his needs best. No government agency should have the right to usurp anyone’s parental/familial rights without REAL PROOF that the parent/family is endangering the person in their care. I hope that you enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving with your son now that you can have peace of mind that you can continue to advocate in his best interest and I hope that you will soon find a setting that meets his needs.


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