Patient Sues Hospice for Non-Consensual Flute Music

Original photo by Nik Frey


Original photo by Nik Frey

KEWAUSHIN, WI – 83 year-old Hal Schunters knew he was dying.  When he was transferred to the Autumn Pathways Hospice House with a raging case of pneumonia, his children said their goodbyes and sat expectantly at his bedside for 6 days waiting for the inevitable.  But through tender care and compassion at the hospice, Schunters rebounded and went back home.  Just weeks later, neighbors were shocked to see him puttering down the street in his power chair and even more shocked when he hired a lawyer to sue Autumn Pathways Hospice for his treatment.

“I’m glad to be alive and all, but that freaking flute still haunts my dreams,” said Schunters in an interview with the DME.

He claims that he was subjected to hours of unwanted musical assault during his 6-day stay at Autumn Pathways.

“I remember that sound – that depressing, murderous-awful sound, and it made me want to die.  It was worse than the shortness of breath, worse than the bed-sore, and worse than having my son-in-law show up from Madison… I loathe my son-in-law from Madison.”

The flautist in question was local volunteer music therapist, Midge Blackenstocker, who has been playing flute versions of classics like “Tears in Heaven,” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” for patients at Autumn Pathways for more than 10 years.

Mr. Schunters, a retired classical violinist, says he’s not trying to stop the faithful flautist, but rather arguing for a little more patient autonomy in the matter.

“I never agreed to have anybody play “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on a flute while I struggled for air!! There should be an informed consent form or something for that stuff.  I just wanted to die in peace, and every time I woke up, it was like I was in music hell.”

For his fight to protect the auditory rights of the dying, Mr. Schunters is this week’s DME Health Hero.  As his medical malpractice claim goes to trial later this month, the DME will keep you posted for groundbreaking developments in this and all fields of medicine.

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