State law authorizes a court-appointed guardian to spend a ward’s money on funeral arrangements even though they are still living.
“A pre-need or pre-paid funeral/burial agreement or contract is purchased by HHSC on behalf of the ward before the death of the individual with Court permission,” said Christine Mann, chief press officer with the Texas Health & Human Services Commission (THHSC)
As previously reported in the Southeast Texas Record, Comal County Judge Charles Stephens signed an order permitting THHSC to withdraw funds and purchase prepaid funeral benefits for Shelley Thomson, 77, who resides in a care center.
THHSC has been Thomson's guardian for two years.
“Generally, for a ward of the state under HHSC guardianship, we are permitted by law to petition the Court for authority to expend the ward’s funds for purchases made on behalf of the ward including the purchase of a pre-need and/or pre-paid funeral/burial agreement/contract,” Mann told Newsbreak.
Thomson is among the 897 individuals who are under the thumb of a THHSC guardian, according to THHSC data. Last year, 936 were under guardianship.
Once under a court-appointed guardianship, older adults like Thomson can be denied the right to eat, to decide where to live, to vote, to choose medical care, health insurance, and marital status, to handle finances, to choose a lawyer, and even to have family and friends visit them.
On June 3, a post in the Save Shelley * Stop Fraudulent Guardianships Facebook group, which is attributed to Thomson states that she has been repeatedly given psychoactive medication against her firmly expressed wishes and that the pills were presented as vitamins or by dosing her food with it.
“We cannot confirm the identity of the wards under THHSC guardianship due to confidentiality laws,” Mann said. “When we receive allegations like the one described that pertain to wards under our care, we investigate to ensure their health and safety.”
Newsmax reported two years ago that Thomson was placed under guardianship on May 23, 2019, and relocated to a bedroom with bars on the window in a facility after she fell ill with potassium deficiency and visited a hospital emergency room.
The application to release Thomson's funds for funeral arrangements and burial was presented to Judge Stephens by Anne M. Angerer, an attorney who works for the THHSC, according to court documents.
Thomson further posted on Facebook that she is not free to walk on the grounds of the facility unless a staff person accompanies her.
"They are seldom willing to do that,” Thomson reportedly stated online. “I get at most a half-hour of slow walking per week, which is not enough to sustain health or morale. I get no exercise. The other inmates are incapable of conversation. The only exception is so heavily doped up that he can hardly talk. I refuse to take psych meds but they have given them to me against my wishes. I have evidence of Haldol in particular. I protest against this in vain."
Thomson also alleged that a psychiatrist sent by the state pronounced her delusional because she claimed to be a scientist and thought life could exist on other planets.
"The State does not want any evidence of my capability," Thomson wrote in her social media post. "I have told them in writing that I would agree to another psychiatric interview if it were recorded, an observer of my choice was present, and if I were given a copy of the recording at the end of the session. The State has declined to comply.”
The Southeast Texas Record reported that a lawsuit was filed against THHSC in Western District federal court on behalf of Thomson on July 5, 2019, for alleged constitutional violations but it was dismissed voluntarily with prejudice on Aug. 29, 2019, which means THHSC cannot be sued again over this matter.
“Something else to which I object... persons sent by the State show up at any time without notice,” Thomson alleges.
“I am accosted without warning and essentially made to be a witness against myself. They can lie about my behavior or the condition of my room, and there is no way for me to contest this.”