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Lawyer Says Morphine Pump Malfunctioning, Violating Court Order

May 4, 1986

LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) _ A pump providing painkilling drugs for paraplegic Elizabeth Bouvier may be malfunctioning, a violation of a court order, her lawyer said Saturday.

Ms. Bouvia, a 28-year-old cerebral palsy victim who also suffers painful progressive arthritis and who once tried to starve to death, says the pump keeps stopping and she is afraid it will leave her in pain without morphine if the Los Angeles County-run High Desert Hospital doesn’t provide backup, lawyer Richard S. Scott said in a telephone interview. Scott also is a physician.

Scott, who visited Mrs. Bouvia on Friday, said he watched the pump for half an hour and it worked during that period. But he said such pumps may stop periodically and start up again, and that he believes Ms. Bouvia when she says it stopped for a total of four hours Friday.

″In all the time I have known her, she has never given me cause to doubt her word,″ Scott said. ″She hardly ever watches televison. She rarely has any visitors. She’s got very little to do besides look at that pump. So she knows the little whims and whispers of that pump to a fare-thee-well.″

He said the pump injects the morphine through a tube into her chest.

Doctors, nurses and Deputy County Counsel Steven Carnevale say the pump is working fine.

Scott said he would go to court Tuesday to seek a contempt-of-court citation against the county for failure to adhere to Superior Court Judge Jack Newman’s order that her morphine be maintained at its April 23 level.

A backup pump has been inoperable since December, he said.

County doctors earlier had tried to wean Ms. Bouvia from morphine, saying the drug wasn’t indicated for her condition, but Newman said her morphine should continue pending a further hearing. A date was not set for the hearing.

The morphine issue arose after the state Court of Appeal upheld her right to have force-feeding tubes removed from her stomach despite county concerns she might try to starve to death as she had in Riverside two years ago.

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