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Family wants answers about father’s removal from life support at hospital

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DENVER -- When hurricane Katrina rolled through New Orleans, Robert Lawrence decided to rebuild his life in Denver. His life took a disastrous turn in a terrible accident on the night before Christmas Eve.

“He loved to eat,” said his daughter Felicia Lawrence.

Sadly, Felicia was stranded on the East coast when the phone call came. Her father had been hit by a car and seriously injured.

Due to high-holiday ticket prices and a blizzard, all Felicia could do was keep constant contact with the hospital.

“The staff at Denver Health Medical Center told me he may pull through,” she said.

During one of those phone calls, Felicia learned a man she describes as her long lost step-brother, Derek, had arrived at the hospital.

Felicia says even though she repeatedly told the hospital her father put her in charge of his medical decisions, the hospital allowed the stepson to take her father off of life support.

“He didn’t even have my father’s last name. He hadn’t seen my father in years,” Felicia said. “The hospital assured me they wouldn’t allow him to make the decision. I don’t know why they dropped the ball.”

Now records show Denver police are investigating whether the stepson’s intentions may be criminal.

Vernice Jackson, a friend of Robert Lawrence, was at the hospital when Derek decided to take him off life support.

“He got (Robert’s) wallet from the hospital and said, 'now I have everything.'”

She says she knew the hospital was aware of Robert’s wishes that his daughter be entrusted with any medical decisions.

Robert Lawrence died shortly after he was removed from life support. Felicia said Derek then cleared out her father's bank account and ransacked his house.

Felicia came to Denver where she held a small memorial service. Derek didn’t attend. She says because he took all of her father’s money, she can’t afford to get his ashes from the funeral home.

Denver Health Medical Center officials released the following statement:

"Because of federal privacy laws, we cannot comment on the specific case you inquired about. We can however assure you that Denver Health has, and follows, customary processes for working with family members and next of kin for patients who cannot direct their own care."

Derek did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.