Woman names husband as guardian, health-care agent

The Daily Iowan/September 12, 2006
By Terry McCoy

Tawnya Nissen opened her eyes last week for the first time in almost a month and signed a court order stipulating that her husband, Chris Nissen, be reinstated as her legal guardian. The decree reversed a District Court ruling that stated Nissen's father should assume the guardianship because the husband's religious beliefs against blood transfusions posed an imminent threat to Tawnya Nissen's health.

During his wife's coma, Chris Nissen had contended that because of their religious beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses, Tawnya Nissen is forbidden from having blood transfusions administered to her, a procedure that may be needed to save her life should she succumb to another coma.

Tawnya Nissen, 27, has said that she plans to uphold her religious obligations.

"I direct that no transfusions of whole blood, red cells, white cells, platelets or plasma be given to me under any circumstances, even if health-care providers believe that such are necessary to preserve my life," Tawyna Nissen is quoted in a case file.

Previously, 6th District Court Judge Marsha Beckelman had ruled that Tawnya Nissen's father, Richard Reid - who wants doctors to perform a blood transfusion if the need arises - should serve as her "limited guardian."

However, Dr. Ronee Aaron of Genesis Medical Center reported on Sept. 7 that Tawnya Nissen was capable of making decisions for herself once more and no longer needed her father to determine the course of her medical treatment.

Tawnya Nissen has almost recovered from neuroleptic malignant syndrome, a condition that was induced by appetite suppressants.

"She is recovering," said Frank Santiago, Chris Nissen's attorney. "She is on her feet, she is eating, she is conscious, and she even went home this last weekend."

But her recovery has not been completely without bumps, said Santiago, who added that Tawnya Nissen experienced several seizures as she was transported from the UI Hospitals and Clinics to a Davenport hospital.

Tawnya Nissen, a Clinton native, has also ordered that if she becomes incapacitated once more, her husband of seven years will act as her health-care agent. Moreover, she signed a directive that bans any family member, relative, or friend from holding any legal authority to object to any of her decisions.

The recovering Nissen plans to make a statement in the coming weeks, Santiago said.

The Nissens could not be reached for comment.

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