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Family: Man’s death in hospice avoidable

ANNIE BLACKBURN
Staff Writer

Bud Coffey was well loved.
The life-long Lincolnton resident was an avid Carolina Panthers fan and, according to family, had two favorite basketball teams — the UNC-Chapel Hill Tarheels and anyone playing against Duke.
When he was born, his parents could not decide what to name him, so they simply called him Buddy Boy. After three weeks of indecision, it was an insurance adjuster that gave him his legal name of Clinard Elliott Coffey, but everyone still called him Bud. The tech-savvy 77-year-old was active on Facebook, loved to draw cartoons and was known for his heavenly singing voice.
A corrections officer for over 30 years and a notorious jokester, the memories that he left behind for his friends and family are both happy and sad.
Coffey passed away on April 6 at 12:30 a.m.
The official cause of his death was stage-four renal cell carcinoma, but his family contends otherwise.
Coffey was referred to hospice care by his primary physician after his pain regimen for an aortic hernia began to fail. An MRI on March 12 showed that he had a 2-centimeter spot on his kidney but, according to the family, there was never any mention of cancer prior to hospice care. In fact, according to Jeff Coffey, Bud’s son, there has never been any history of cancer in the family.
“His primary doctor thought it was scar tissue from his kidney stones,” Jeff Coffey said.
The assigning documents for hospice listed Bud Coffey’s diagnosis as aortic hernia, mild dementia and an abnormal kidney, in addition to pain management control. His care began on March 21, administered at his home by Community Home Care and Hospice in Statesville.
In a press conference held at Lincolnton’s Court Square on Thursday, Jeff Coffey said the last time his father saw a physician was on March 17. He was scheduled to meet with the urologist on March 21, family said, but he did not want to go.
One week into treatment, according to Jeff Coffey, Bud felt better than he had in a long time. Over the brief course of his treatment, Bud began to lose his appetite, and complained of neck pain. The Coffey family said the hospice response was more morphine and muscle relaxers. When a nurse charted that Bud was having difficulty swallowing, he was switched to liquid morphine. A Washington Post article published on Aug. 21 regarding the incident, part of that paper’s ongoing series on hospice care, cited that Bud was given 40 milligrams every three hours as needed for pain. Family was called in on April 5 and on April 6, Bud died.
Jeff Coffey and his family maintain that his father did not have to die. They believe a mislabeled diagnosis and hospice’s increased acceptance of patients who aren’t receiving end-of-life care contributed to the loss of Bud’s life. Maintaining that Bud was not terminal and did not require hospice care, the family believes that Bud was given lethal doses of pain medication that ultimately caused his death.
Community Home Care and Hospice’s website maintains that their mission is to care for patients with a life-limiting illness. According to Jeff Coffey, his father was given the news that the aortic aneurysm would be fatal within six months, a prognosis timeline he beat by two years.
“If this hadn’t happened, who knows how much longer he’d have had,” Jeff Coffey said.
Jeff Coffey took his concerns to the Lincolnton Police Department and spoke with Capt. Brian Greene about what he felt was the criminal aspect of his father’s death.
“(Mr. Coffey) first contacted us in May,” Greene said, regarding the case. “We met again with him this past Monday and filed a report. Our investigation will be on hold until the medical board makes their findings.”
The Coffey family has filed a complaint with the North Carolina Board of Medicine, as well as the Board of Nursing. Additionally, they have contacted local legislators in order to advocate for legislation that would require a hospice doctor to see a patient prior to treatment. According to the Washington Post article, an attorney for Curo Health, the company that owns Community Home Care and Hospice would not comment due to the Coffey family’s contact with an attorney in preparation to file a lawsuit.
Regardless of the outcome, the loss of Bud’s life is one that still impacts his friends and family.
“He was one of these people that, when you get around him, you feel loved,” said Greg Davis, Bud’s nephew. “This is the way it was with him. You could see him at his best and his worst and you still just felt loved. And that was my uncle.”

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