There are many ways elderly, sick and disabled people can wind up in a court-appointed guardianship, where a complete stranger wields total control over their lives and assets. Some are identified as “incapacitated” by paid caregivers. Others are fingered by greedy relatives or rapacious lawyers.But members of the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, who spoke out last week on Capitol Hill, agree that once a loved one is placed in a guardianship, they are stripped of all their civil and constitutional rights and death is often the only way out.

That was the case for 72-year-old Yvonne Sarhan, the widowed mother of Miami physician Robert Sarhan, who was declared “incapacitated” at a secret ex parte (“one side only”) hearing.

Guardians helped themselves to her $2 million estate while a Florida probate judge ignored her son’s desperate pleas to take her off the schizophrenia drug Seroquel, which is contraindicated for the elderly because it causes electrical disturbances in the heart.

“The word ‘incapacitated’ has no medical meaning,” Dr. Sarhan told The Examiner. “Two board-certified neurologists both agreed my mother was competent. She was a bit forgetful, but she was still able to go to the grocery store and church.”

Yet it continued even after Dr. Sarhan produced documented evidence that the same lawyer representing his mother also represented the court-appointed guardian who was billing her estate. More