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Addabbo Introduces Bill to Protect Cognitively Disabled During Pandemic, Follows Autistic Man’s Death

Fred and Maria D’Amico (Sen. Joseph Addabbo)

Jan. 15, 2021 By Allie Griffin

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo introduced a bill earlier this month to protect people with cognitive disabilities during the pandemic after he heard of an autistic constituent’s tragic death.

Addabbo said he was inspired to craft the bill after learning about the passing of Fred D’Amico, a 30-year-old Glendale man with Autism, who died alone in a hospital due to COVID-19 on March 31.

D’Amico’s parents were constantly at his side to help him through his daily life, but were forbidden to visit him at the hospital due to COVID-19. New York State at the time of his death prohibited hospitals from allowing guests in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Hospital visitors are now permitted.

The legislation aims to make sure that patients who are unable to communicate their needs are permitted to have a support person in case future prohibitions are put in place.

“What happened to Fred, and others, should never happen again,” Addabbo said. “It is vitally important to ensure that patients with communication deficiencies are able to have someone they trust with them to report to medical staff the patient’s medical history and needs.”

The legislation would protect people with any condition that makes it difficult for them to verbally communicate their needs or health problems — such as individuals with autism or cerebral palsy. It would guarantee that they would have someone like a caretaker or parent to report their medical needs and history to hospital staff.

Maria D’Amico, the mother of Fred D’Amico, said she doesn’t want to see anyone else to go through what her family did.

“This is not about getting justice for me, but honoring my son, and making sure that this does not happen again to anyone else,” she said. “We just had to go through Christmas without our son, and I do not want that experience for anyone else.”

Mrs. D’Amico brought her son to Good Samaritan Hospital on Long Island on March 27 because he was running a fever. She and Fred’s siblings were denied the right to stay with him due to COVID-19 and were instead told to call the hospital for updates, according to an advocate for the family.

The following day — allegedly after several unanswered calls — Mrs. D’Amico was informed that her son had been intubated. The family continued to call for updates, but were told to call less often as hospital staff struggled to treat an influx of patients, according to the family advocate and activist Connie Altamirano.

Then on March 31, Mrs. D’Amico received a call from hospital staff at 3 a.m. telling her that her son’s kidneys were failing and he could not be saved.

She was denied final goodbyes with her son and not offered the option to video call him, according to Altamirano.

Now, Mrs. D’Amico says she often wonders whether he would have survived if she had been at the hospital to help him.

“I wake up every day with a pain in my chest thinking that there might have been something more I could’ve done for Fred,” she said. “I feel so guilty for leaving him alone in the hospital.”

Mrs. D’Amico said her son never went anywhere without her or his sister and can only imagine how terrifying it was for him to be alone in the hospital, not knowing what was going on.

“Many people think that people with Autism don’t have emotions, but they are very affected by their surroundings and by sudden changes,” she said. “I know that being left alone and surrounded by machines was terrifying for him. I know he would have wanted me there to say goodbye. I believe that is part of why he died.”

Addabbo’s bill was referred to the Senate Disabilities Committee on Jan. 6 for review and a vote. Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato is introducing a companion bill in the State Assembly.

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7 Comments

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Eliana

I was at a local ER during the pandemic. My experience and what i saw was horrible. Most staff do not want family around to monitor treatment and advocate for loved ones. Many staff were rude and ignored patient needs. My suggestion is that you document and have a charged cell phone if you go to the hospital. If you do not speak english or are elderly its even worse if you end up with a bad doctor, nurse or nurse aid. Many staff does not care and act like they hate their job and that you are receiving free treatment and dont deserve better care.

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Jerry

Fred’s death was tragic. However the point of isolating people was to stop the spread of the virus. If Fred’s mother was in the room with him she may have gotten the disease and spread it.

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Georgia

Then why did so many health workers not want to get vaccinated if risk is so great at hospital’s. Hospital staff also go home to friends and family, live life and come back to work. With the proper face masks families should be able to visit. Imagine that was your loved one you could not visit. They were fine getting food delivered for free and eating by sick patients and had no problem during the pandemic doing dance videos. They could of allowed immediate family in!!

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Just coming by to mention

The more people around, the more the covid within the air is moving round.

I totally agree that special circumstances such as this victim, should have been an exception. But normally, the #nofamilymembers does make sense.

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Guest

What kind of nonsense is this, is it hospital or prison? They should have allowed one person to be there, and be quarantined. When MILLIONS walk around maskless and spread the germs, they did not allow this person to have someone to support them during their last days?
Hospitals are turning into thugs… And we clapped these people every night? Shame.

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Many hospital workers are not thinking about special circumstances patients.

Not everyone is capable of lucid thinking and decision making! He was an example of a special circumstance! The hospital admins have to think about the patient as a person and soul, not just a number and a bed.

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