Terminally ill man must remain in State Hospital
By Alan Gustafson
A state board ruled Wednesday that a terminally ill mental patient with AIDS will remain at the Oregon State Hospital and not be released to a community hospice care facility.
The state Psychiatric Security Review Board concluded that the ailing patient, Robert Anderson, can receive hospice care at the state-run psychiatric facility in Salem.
Anderson, 47, bowed his head and slumped in his chair when the board decision was announced. Outside the hearing room, he expressed frustration and anger.
“How can people sit in a room for 20 minutes and pass a death sentence on me?” he said. “How can you look someone in the face and say, ‘We know you’re dying, but you have to stay here.'”
Testimony provided to the review board indicated that doctors have told Anderson that he has less than six months to live.
Anderson dreads the prospect of dying at the state institution, possibly without loved ones at his side.
In seeking a conditional release, he hoped to spend whatever time he has left in a Portland-area facility — closer to his daughter, church and other supporters.
Anderson, who has a long history of mental illness, recently landed in the hospital’s forensic psychiatric program after he was found guilty except for insanity of attempted arson. He reportedly set fire to a Portland duplex early this year. No one was injured.
Anderson recently was diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer that often afflicts people who have AIDS.
Given Anderson’s condition, his hopes for moving to a community hospice facility are “racing against the clock,” said Harris Matarazzo, Anderson’s attorney.
“He understands his time on the planet is very limited now,” Matarazzo told the review board.
Under Oregon law, the board can conditionally release patients to live in community facilities. Typically, a conditional release occurs only after a patient makes progress in treatment, receives favorable reports from hospital therapists, is deemed no longer dangerous and has a suitable place to reside in the community.
The state hospital did not support Anderson’s request for a conditional release.
Dr. Satya Chandragiri, a state hospital psychiatrist, told the review board that Anderson is receiving comprehensive medical treatment.
Anderson currently is housed on hospital Ward 35B. Some of the patients living on the medical unit have dementia, along with mental illnesses. Others are physically frail.
Anderson frequently displays irritation, frustration and anger about being held at the hospital, Chandragiri said.
“He’s becoming very hopeless with all the constraints placed on him,” the therapist said.
The review board denied Anderson’s bid for a conditional release after brief, closed-door deliberations.
The board also denied Matarazzo’s request to have Anderson evaluated by a community facility for possible placement at some future date.
agustafs@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6709