Scott Quiner, a Minnesota man whose wife sued over a hospital’s plan to take him off a ventilator months after he was diagnosed with covid-19, died Saturday. He was 55.
The family’s ordeal drew national attention this month as surging coronavirus cases overwhelmed hospitals across the United States. A GoFundMe in support of Quiner garnered tens of thousands of dollars in donations, and his wife told their story in media appearances.
“On behalf of the family of Scott Quiner, I would like to thank the public for the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time,” Holsten said in an email to The Washington Post. “The family now requests privacy while they grieve the loss of their beloved husband and father.”
Quiner was not vaccinated when he contracted the virus on Oct. 30, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the GoFundMe page. He was admitted to a hospital in Waconia, a city about 30 miles southwest of Minneapolis, with low oxygen levels. When his condition had not improved about a week later, health-care workers placed him on a ventilator and transferred him to the ICU at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, about 45 miles away.
More than two months passed. Then, on Jan. 11, doctors told Quiner’s wife, Anne, that they wanted to take him off the ventilator, she said in court records. She said she strongly objected as his medical representative.
A day later, she filed a petition in state court seeking a temporary restraining order to stop doctors from removing the ventilator. A judge granted her request on Jan. 13, shortly before the machine was to be turned off, according to court documents.
It’s unclear why Mercy Hospital wanted to take that step. The system that operates the hospital, Allina Health, defended the treatment Quiner received there.
“Allina Health will vigorously defend the exceptional, evidence-based care provided to our patients by our talented and compassionate medical teams,” the system said in a statement sent to The Post, adding that “our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and loved ones.”
Quiner was transported from Mercy Hospital in Minnesota on Jan. 15, according to Allina Health.
“His passing marks yet another very sad moment as collectively we continue to face the devastating effects of the pandemic,” the statement added.
Jennifer Needle, an associate professor of bioethics at the University of Minnesota, said hospitals may take someone off a ventilator after concluding that the patient will not survive and that continued life support is prolonging the person’s suffering.
It’s rare, she said, for a hospital to go against the preferences of a patient’s advance directive laying out their wishes, or those of a surrogate — “but it does happen.” Needle, who is also a professor of pediatrics, emphasized that hospitals do not take such decisions lightly and have standard procedures to bring in multiple opinions.
Resource scarcity may play a role in the decision-making under “crisis standards of care,” Needle noted, and some states have implemented those standards during the pandemic. Crisis standards allow hospitals to allocate limited staffers, ventilators and other tools based partially on patients’ chances of survival. Minnesota has not adopted crisis standards, Needle said, but many hospitals in the state are effectively operating under those circumstances.
Whether scarce resources played into the decision-making in Quiner’s case is not clear, and Needle cautioned that the case was probably complex.
“There is such a mistrust now of science that it has unfortunately bled its way into people not trusting medical providers, who have historically been one of the most trustworthy professions that there could be,” Needle said. She pointed to some Americans’ rejection of basic medical guidance on vaccination and coronavirus treatments.
Some families of coronavirus patients have sought to force hospitals to administer ivermectin, a deworming drug that has not been proved effective against covid-19 but is promoted by some as a vaccine alternative. Judges have rejected such requests.
Last week, the Star Tribune published an opinion article written by three physicians criticizing the judge’s order to maintain Quiner’s life support. They said the United States “is nearly unique in allowing families and courts to intervene in these situations, and to order that artificial life support must continue.”
“When resources are scarce, the community consequences of continued active treatment become more significant and urgent — because other community members’ lives are often at stake,” they said, noting that many patients in Minnesota were waiting for limited treatment.
Keeping Quiner on a ventilator an additional 30 days as the judge ordered would take up resources that could have gone to 10 other patients, the doctors estimated, citing an average intensive-care stay of three days.
A statement Holsten previously sent to The Post alleges Quiner did not receive adequate nutrition while on the ventilator at Mercy and subsequently lost 30 pounds.
Anne Quiner told conservative radio host Stew Peters after her husband’s transfer that he was “very critically ill.”
“They are saying they’re going to try everything they can do to save his life.”
“Scott is fighting — they said he’s absolutely fighting. He’s moving, he’s trying to do things. … He’s not giving up, and neither are we, that’s what they told me,” she said on the show.
Jonathan Edwards contributed to this report.