New Hampshire Grandmother Dies After National Grid Cuts Power

53-year-old New Hampshire grandmother Kay Phaneuf died this weekend after National Grid cut her power over an unpaid bill. Phaneuf suffered from a heart condition that required her to sleep in an oxygen tent and use a plug-in oxygen machine. The worker who disconnected the power after ringing Phaneuf’s bell and waiting several minutes at the door apparently didn’t notice a big red sign that warned people not to smoke because of the oxygen machine. National Grid is claiming they followed proper procedures, but that isn’t stopping New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission from opening an investigation.

David Graves, a spokesman for National Grid, said in a phone interview that the meter worker “had no record to indicate there was a medical note on the account.’’

“We follow the state regulations to protect the customer and to protect the company as well,’’ he said. “The last thing that we want to do is cut off a person’s service.’’

The account had included a medical notification, Graves said, but it had expired on May 15.

“We sent them a letter on April 30 advising them of the expiration, but there was no response,’’ Graves said. “We sent out a letter on June 1 advising them that service would be shut off no earlier than June 15, but they didn’t respond to that either. In our review of this event, we found nothing to indicate that we didn’t follow proper procedure. And there is nothing so far to indicate that the shutoff of electricity had anything to do with her medical emergency.’’

He said the company goes beyond the state’s 60-day medical notification requirement and gives 90 days.

The President of the company, Tom King, added: “[w]e take this matter very seriously…”

The Public Utilities Commissions has asked the company to produce a slew of records, and is working to make sure that other utilities adhere to their own procedures so that no other customers die such thoroughly avoidable deaths.

Power is cut, a woman dies, and furor follows [The Boston Globe] (Thanks, GitEmSteveDave!)
NH woman on oxygen dies after power cut to home [AP]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Beeker26 says:

    Yeah, this so isn’t right. Here’s an idea: if you have a medical exemption on file perhaps you NEVER cancel it until you’ve spoken with the customer or their doctors. This “well your exemption expired so we’ll turn off your power and kill you” is bullshit.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      And what if she had already died an no one notified the electric company? They tried several times, ringing her doorbell the day the electricity was cut off, even notifying her that her medical status on the account had expired…how were they supposed to know that she wasn’t already dead or had moved out?

      • coren says:

        At some point they could probably get law enforcement intervention?

        • common_sense84 says:

          That is not the job of law enforcement.

          The facts are the system is always going to be one where if you ignore everything and don’t keep the company updated, they are allowed to assume you no longer have the medical reason.

          It would be too expensive for the company to have to prove she doesn’t need it first. And anyone that needs it to live, is going to keep the company notified, unless they chose to die.

          And lets not forget, she wasn’t paying the bill. She had no right to the electricity. Even if she had the exemption, the electric company would have gone through some eventual process to legally shut it off and get her removed from the house. Social services would have been called. But if no one tells the company she is still there, legally they assume she is not there. That is the way it will always work.

          • Nisun says:

            Well, if they suspect she’s defrauding the company, or she may have died then I don’t see why they cant ask the cops to check on her and make sure she’s still alive. They could look in her mailbox and see if she’s still getting mail or something… The medical paper work was on there for SOME reason… so it might be worth just asking the cops to check on her before the pull the plug. That being said, I have no idea why she (or the caregiver) couldn’t answer back.

            • manus manum lavat says:

              You do realize that if the power company called the police for every customer that defaulted, that the cops would be doing nothing else? I sincerely doubt they police would be willing to do it, anyway. You need to take into account the sheer numbers involved, and the insane amount of hoops any company has to go through before they can legally disconnect someone. It’s sad that this happened, maybe if there was someone in that poor woman’s life to help her out with her bills it wouldn’t have happened, but you can’t blame the power company.

              • RvLeshrac says:

                They don’t have to call for every customer that fails to pay, but they should probably consider calling for every customer that fails to pay *AND* has a recently-expired medical notice. That’s a much smaller number.

          • thisistobehelpful says:

            Or unless they’re senile and aren’t quite sure if they did notify the company. When my grandma was circling the drain she remembered to do most things like turn the oven off, lock the door, put away the milk, buy toilet paper. She left $30,000 in tax debt because at some point she just stopped understanding and/or remembering property taxes.

            It’s unacceptable to shut off the electricity without making sure you make that person completely aware of what you’re doing. And that IS what law enforcement is for. It’s theft of services and they probably could’ve gone to the cops and made a stink. Laziness won out.

            • womynist says:

              I live in NH and work for an organization that helps families by providing financial assistance for utility shut-offs, and I can tell you that the electric/natural gas companies here give customers plenty of notice before disconnecting the power. Not only did they send her a letter stating her medical note had expired (you have to renew every year), but when they send a “Notice of Disconnect”, you get it AT LEAST 2 weeks before they actually come to disconnect you. And even then, they will make phone calls to the home and knock on the door once they do come to shut you off. In this case, I think National Grid performed their due diligence and are not at fault.

            • Griking says:

              How many attempts to contact the customer would you feel is sufficient? This woman was receiving monthly bills shut off notices, phone calls and actually had a electric company employee knocking on her door. you really don’t think that made a fair attempt to notify her?

              Stop babying people that don’t pay their bills. If they’re unemployed and/or handicapped and legitimately can’t pay but are at least making a fair effort (which involves communicating with the people you owe money to) then that’s different. But you can’t just ignore the bills and expect them to go away.

          • pot_roast says:

            “That is not the job of law enforcement.”

            But it is one of fire/EMS. Our department does occasionally do welfare checks. Actually, our police department will as well. It just depends on where you are.

    • sleze69 says:

      If what the company says is true, I am not sure there was much more it could have done. Whoever was in charge of her care (herself or her kids if she was senile), was responsible for ignoring the letters notifying them of the imminent shutoff.

      That person is responsible for her death.

      • Griking says:

        I agree. She may have been disabled but it doesn’t excuse her for having to take responsibility for paying her bills. How long does a person have to go without paying their electric bill before they turn off the power. I’d think that it would be a few months at least. Once she received her first shut down notice she needed to get on the phone with the power company as well as her closest relatives asap.

        • gloOmy says:

          Put it this way.

          I agree that the laws (in this case company policy) adheres and applies to everyone who signed a contract with the company, however there is such exceptions as this where further or additional steps must’ve been taken to avoid such “thoroughly avoidable” unfortunate incidents. It’s like “calamity prevention” and wise companies have this on their agenda (nonetheless policies), similar to the courtroom allowing appeals, arrests allowing lawyers.. and companies must expect exceptional cases out of their policy, hence the need for customer service representatives on a day-to-day basis. If everything was to policy and strictly so, hey, just read the policy or FAQ, you’re no one special, just another customer.

          A morally active business (and a company as large as this) has the responsibility to attend to customer needs and obligated (more morally then legal) to take different action in different circumstances. I agree with the previous post, the company would be infringing on privacy issues (a whole new topic), if the customer was being monitored for usage of its’ services, but don’t you think if the company sent someone to checkup on the individual 2-3 times (or maybe even once) before the disconnection of the service, in fact solely due to the fact that the client had a serious health condition on file, he/she deserves a more microscopic care.

 elaborate, I found this quite amusing and recklessly pathetic to say the least:

          “David Graves, a spokesman for National Grid, said in a phone interview that the meter worker “had no record to indicate there was a medical note on the account.”

          “no record”??


          The account had included a medical notification, Graves said, but it had expired on May 15.

          “We sent them a letter on April 30 advising them of the expiration, but there was no response,’’ Graves said.

          So buddy, just because someone’s medical notification expired on file, should definately not mean they’re off the radar.

          So, in this case, if a doctor finishes a surgery on a patient, let’s say a heart surgery or neural surgery, and the patient appeared “fine”. Should the doctor not checkup on the client?

          Yes, the doctor actually treated the medical condition, but nonetheless, the company could have devoted extra care or attention to this specific patient – and please, don’t shower me with things about company costs, or additional fees – can you price tag someone’s life?

      • Puddy Tat says:

        Sorry but these company’s couldn’t care less and should with a MEDCIAL condition confirm that the person isn’t on a resperator or something before shutting off the power.

        • sleze69 says:

          I don’t imagine the technician was looking through her bedroom window, seeing her in the oxygen tent and shutting down the power all the while maniacally laughing (MUUUUHAHAHHAHAHAH!).

          They have checks in place to prevent this sort of thing happening that require participation by the customer. Unless we want to give up all our privacy protections so that all of our utilities know about our health situation at all times, I think the checks are pretty reasonable.

  2. Nate says:


    If a patient dies because he couldn’t afford his medication to keep him alive do we complain? Yes, it’s human to be upset, but if you make rules where money is more important than people what do you expect.

    Also, just because she has a sign saying she uses an oxygen tent doesn’t mean she should get special consideration. What does that mean to me if I see it? It means don’t smoke nothing more, nothing less. They went the extra step. They went to her door. She didn’t answer, she missed the bill, it’s clearly her fault. Situation sucks, but the company did their part. One person dies out of millions of people and we should change the system, why?

    And honestly, from the journalistic standpoint, the fact that she is a grandmother is irrelevant. She could be a mother of 3, grandmother of 10 or a transvestite, none of that matters. All you are trying to do is provoke an emotion response, not cool.

    • crashfrog says:

      If a patient dies because he couldn’t afford his medication to keep him alive do we complain?

      Yes we do, because that’s barbarous. You’re used to it, because that’s the system we’ve suffered under for decades here in the US, but in any other civilized nation letting someone die of a treatable disease simply because they were poor is regarded as a crime against humanity.

      • Nate says:

        Oh really? Tell that to all the people who don’t the surgeries they need because they don’t have insurance. Tell that to all the people who don’t get aids medicine. All the people who die on the streets because they can’t afford a home, much less a medical bill (It’s sad that the bill would cost more than the house, but it does).

        How about the millions that could be saved from simple immunizations across the country, never mind the world. And you tell me we complain? Forgive me, but no we don’t complain. People die everyday because of the cost of medical treatment. The rich get better and the poor die, that’s how it works in this country.

        • dreamfish says:

          I think the point was that some of us, like crashfrog, do care and therefore complain but also complain about how not enough people complain about it. That is the sad situation.

          • JanDuKretijn says:

            The details of the case are murky at this point, but I agree about the poor choice of headlines Consumerist used. It’s an irrelevant detail. Might as well have said she’s a 53-year-old daughter, because, well, she’s someone’s daughter, right?

            • brinks says:

              It’s a bit sensational to mention that she’s a grandmother.

              However, I don’t have kids and, honestly, there are more people that will be upset about her death than mine. It’s slightly relevant.

        • coren says:

          Just because one situation is horrible and intolerable doesn’t make this one any more acceptable.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          How about the millions that could be saved from simple immunizations across the country, never mind the world.

          And how about the ones that aren’t immunized because some idiot actress tells them not to?

      • SecretAgentWoman says:

        Well said. I weep for the (lack of) compassion in this country.

      • SlimDan22 says:


        i used to have no compassion for the poor and sick, then my grandfather made me volunteer with him at a homeless shelter for a day when i was younger, it completely changed my outlook on life and how fortunate i am to have food, electricity, heat, water, and shelter.

      • ldub says:


      • Dallas_shopper says:


        Western civilization is too narcissistic and lacking in empathy to be believed. It’s amazing people even bother to stop for pedestrians anymore.

      • Verdant Pine Trees says:

        Thank you.

    • ArcanaJ says:

      Clearly her fault? To paraphrase, when did ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ turn into, ‘Sucks to be you’?

      Oh, and by the way: “State law currently prohibits shutoffs in cases where power is needed for medical reasons.”

      The company didn’t do its part, not by a long shot.

      • Shivar says:

        How are they to know the electricity is required for medical reasons IF THEY DIDN’T RENEW THE INFORMATION THAT TELLS THEM SO? That is the person’s responsibility, NOT the company’s.

        • Difdi says:

          Why does the information expire at all?

          • HoJu says:

            That’s a different issue. The fact is that it does and (if the company is to be believed) the lady was notified.
            If she was too infirm to even open her mail or pa her bills she doesn’t belong living on her own. If she was then it’s her own falt for not responding to ANYTHING.

            That is, if the company is to be believed.

          • womynist says:

            In NH, medical exceptions for utility accounts must be renewed every 6 to 12 months, depending on which utility company you have. Just because someone has necessity for a medical exemption one year does not necessarily indicate that the medical condition will exist indefinitely.

          • tungstencoil says:

            Because people move, die, or have temporary impairments.

      • ohhhh says:

        How is the company to know the Electricity was needed for the Oxygen, could it not have been derived from bottles?

      • VouxCroux says:

        The medical exemption expired. They sent notice to her doctor. They sent notice that the electricity would be shut off.

        The company has no reason to believe that such a condition still existed. I could get one of those “oxygen in use, no smoking” signs. And as someone else said, how were they to know that she required power and wasn’t on bottles.

    • Steamboat says:

      What happened was tragic, but I think the woman’s family deserves their share of the blame. Apparently, her husband couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the power bills, neglected to renew the medical exemption which would keep his wife alive–and finally he left his critically ill wife in the home alone without a battery backup for her oxygen machine. Had she had just a 2-hour backup she would be alive today (assuming her death was caused by her machine shutting off). IMO, I think the husband should be investigated for negligent homicide.

      On a side note, the sign on the door primarily admonished guests not to smoke. Nowhere in the sign did it emphasize that the oxygen was dependent on electricity. How was the meter-man supposed to know if her family failed to notify him of the urgency?

      • wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

        This, exactly this. Where was her family? We’re supposed to feel compassion and want to pay her bill for her, but isn’t that what family is for? Besides the horrible acts of her husband, what about the neighbors? How is a utility worker supposed to know better when the people literally closest to her don’t?

    • SlimDan22 says:

      Jeez have some compassion, unless this happens to someone locally you really do not know how it is for people.

      there was a 70 year old man in my area that froze to death because the utility company shut off his gas and electricity during one of the coldest months in Michigan. He was only 5 months behind in payments.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        “Only”? If I was “only” five months behind in my payments to Con Ed, I’d be in debt to them to the tune of $565. And I’d rightfully expect them to shut me off.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        Was that the one where the guy refused to hit the button that would have turned it back on?

      • Randell says:

        Living in Michigan, if you get a month behind you can call and get on a program to help with payment and not have your gas or electricity turned off. If he was that infirm, he then needs person to help with these things. This woman obviously was not paying her bill. Maybe she could not afford it. BUT, why didn’t her kids, grandkids. or neighbors help her out and make sure things would be ok.
        Oh thats right, the kids are too busy with their lives to care about their mother.

  3. Xyjar says:

    Sounds to me like they acted responsibly. They had no way of knowing someone’s life depended on that electricity, and you really can’t expect them to give it away free indefinitely to everyone who doesn’t pay their bill.

    • dg says:

      Whether or not someone’s life depended on the power is irrelevant. She didn’t pay the damn bill. If the power is that important to you – then pay your damn bill. Or make sure whomever is taking care of you or your family sees to it that it gets done. Otherwise, suffer the consequences.

      Why should she get free power because she’s sick? Next thing you know, everyone’s filing a “medical exemption”, no one’s paying, and rates go up for the rest of the consumers who are paying.

      It’s a shame that she died, but ultimately not the fault of the utility.

      • newfenoix says:

        You are an asshole.

        • Student Boy says:

          But he’s not wrong…

        • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

          quite succinct. I would say the a-hole is the person that didn’t pay their bill and was shocked that the power got shut off.

        • dg says:

          I disagree, but you’re entitled to your opinion so it doesn’t upset me in the least. However – since you think I’m wrong for expecting someone (or their guardian/family) to pay their own bills – why don’t you do what you think I’m doing wrong? Go out, find someone who can’t pay their bills and is threatened with disconnection, and pay their bill.

          Keep doing it for as long as people don’t want to or can’t pay their bills. Do it for everyone, everywhere. After a while, let me know what you think.

        • It'sRexManningDay! says:

          No, dg is right. Based on the article, there were steps that the woman or others could have taken to prevent this situation from occurring. If she or her caretakers did not follow those steps (renewing the medical exemption, paying the bill, contacing the electricity company and claiming hardship), the situation would have turned out differently. The customer (or his/her caergivers) has a responsibility to uphold his/her end of the deal–you pay , or get the necessary paperwork in order to show that you can’t/don’t have to pay, and the electric company keeps the lights on.

      • Smashville says:

        Where do you expect her to get the money to pay the bill?

        • dg says:

          That’s not my concern, nor the concern of the utility. She gets to figure it out on her own. If she can’t, then whomever is responsible for her as a guardian or conservator gets to handle it.

          Just like any contract that one enters into – it’s not the responsibility of the other party to the contract to figure out how the other person is going to fulfill it. When you enter into a contract, you figure out how you’re going to fulfill it BEFORE you sign. If you know you can’t, then don’t enter into it. If you do, then the other party is well within their rights to expect you to perform.

          Yeah, stuff happens – but again, it’s not the responsibility of the other party to handle that for you. You deal with your own problems.

          That people don’t, and expect the Government to bail them out all the time is wrong…

          • Smashville says:

            I sincerely hope you don’t have a family.

            • dg says:

              I do. I deal with my family, I don’t expect others to do it for me. And if some relative of mine had passed away because they didn’t pay their bill, I would feel saddened for the loss, but unless they told me or someone I knew and they screwed up – I couldn’t blame the utility…

  4. taney71 says:

    That’s horrible.

  5. StrangeEmily says:

    Right before I saw this, I’d just finished watching SAW VI, so this really doesn’t surprise me.

  6. Xin says:

    on one hand I have to say the power company did all they could (phone, letters, showing up in person). they went beyond their regular duties.

    on the other hand: i medical note shouldn’t have an expiration date! You need an oxygen tent – I really dont think your reasons for needing this oxygen tent is “suddenly gonna go away” one night.

    The medical note should always transfer from month to month unless notified otherwise.

    • Brainswarm says:

      If you had a medical exemption from having your power turned off on file, and were so far behind on the bill that the exemption is the only thing keeping you from sitting in the dark, wouldn’t you neglect to tell the power company when you got better? There’s a reason things like this have a time limit, to keep people from abusing it.

    • burnedout says:

      I also think that if someone desperately needs the electricity to stay alive, mail from the electric company would be high priority – open it, and either pay the bill or call them. It sounds like either the lady or the people taking care of her were a little negligent with the mail.

    • dg says:

      Actually, there’s a couple reasons that an Oxygen Tent wouldn’t be needed any longer… People occasionally get better ;-)

    • aja175 says:

      The thing with medical notes is eventually, the person behind the note no longer needs it. Eventually, they get better – or they die.
      If the note doesn’t require periodic recertification what’s to keep a relative of that person from continuing to enjoy free, or extremely cheap power on the power company’s dime?

  7. aka_mich says:

    How does a “medical notification” expire? It just seems that there are some conditions, like a heart condition in this case, that should always be on file with a utility company to avoid just a situation like this.

    • allinfocus says:

      The person with the condition dies, but it was not the resident or the person who pays the bill? When people care for their aging parents (or terminal kids.)

    • TerpBE says:

      I know a guy who had his leg amputated after a motorcycle crash. He has handicapped plates, but has to re-apply every couple of years. I guess they have to make sure it hasn’t grown back yet.

      • Randell says:

        He needs to renew, because maybe at some point he no longer drives. Therefore his need for these plates would be gone. If he did it forever, the plates would pass to his kids, grandkids, and then to whomever. I also have an issue with her using the system to get electricity for free. They can not shut her off while she forces the rest of us to pay for it? I think I want her husband checked for negligence and her children as well.
        I know I make sure the things my mother needs to stay alive are taken car eof IMMEDIATELY. I don;t sit around and hope.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i have to renew my certification for FMLA eligibility every fews months. like my type 1 diabetes is suddenly going to go away.
      my doctor agrees, that there should be an option for a medical provider to indicate the permanence of a condition which would keep something like this from expiring. several letters from my doctor later and they agreed to only make me renew it every 6 months instead of every 3

  8. Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

    It’s the death panels in action!

  9. SecretAgentWoman says:

    I think having to renew your doctor’s note every 2 months is excessive. They should have more permanent notes available, especially those with chronic/life long medical issues.

    That, and the emergency battery should have kicked in, that needs to be looked at. An unforeseen power outage could have killed her, too.

    • Jerry Vandesic says:

      I thought state law specified two months, but the power company only needed an update every three months.

  10. Mr. Ree says:

    Dat’s racist!

    I’m not really sure it is, but I wanted to be the first to say it before the NAACP or ACLU gets involved.

    Dat’s racist!

    There, I said it again.

  11. rage says:

    god bless murica .

  12. FiorellaMajumdar says:

    I any one of us turned off this woman’s oxygen, we’d be charged with murder. How is this any different? How is this not a corporate-sanctioned execution? If a big, powerful, politically connected company kills you, they pay a fine and settle with the family out of court while if you or I kill grandma and don’t have our own Dream Team of lawyers, we get to spend the rest of our lives holding our hands over our a$$e$ in the prison shower. And you thought this was still a democracy and not a corporatist republic?

    • Commenter24 says:

      It’s not like the power company turned the power off to spite the woman; she wasn’t paying her bill.

    • DanRydell says:

      Seriously? You don’t see the difference here? They didn’t turn off her oxygen. They provided her with a service (electricity), she stopped paying for the service, they stopped providing the service. This woman was either a victim of neglect or she committed suicide. There is no way to view this situation that places any fault on the electric company. They did everything right.

      • tbax929 says:

        I completely agree. It’s a sad story, but we can’t expect the power company to just keep giving their service for free.

        • crashfrog says:

          If you literally need it to live, then yes, I think we can expect the power company to provide it for free. Human lives trump money.

          • coren says:

            But they didn’t know she did need it anymore, as she wouldn’t respond to their inquiries about just that.

          • wrjohnston91283 says:

            If the power company knew there was someone there relying on electricity, they would not have cut the power.

            The company proactively notified the customer 15 days prior to expiration that it was due for renewal, and did not receive a response. (National Grid policy allows medical notices to go for 90 days, which is more more than state law requires).

            The customer was given several notices that their account was delinquent, and a shut off would occur, and they did not respond.

            If National Grid showed up out of the blue and cut the power, that would be one thing, but in this case they provided multiple notices and opportunities for the customer to say “hey, someone will die if you cut our power” (in which case they would continue to get electricity without having to pay for it.)

            • Randy says:

              Like the sick and their care takers really have the time to constantly jump through hoops so that big corporations do not lose a few bucks with out the proper documentation so they can get reimbursed by tax credit .

              To re-do the same paper work every couple of month’s for the utility’s or insurance or what ever is ridiculous and just a form of harassment .It is especially evident for people that have life long or terminal illness

              I look through this thread and I am embarrassed to be a American .We seem show no concern for others only concern if we may some how directly or indirectly be footing the bill for a person we feel is more than likely gaming the system some how. There is no profit in humanitarian activity , so it seems that in America we are doing our best to eradicate it . Compassion and empathy for our fellow man are being replaced by R.O.I. and profit margins .That my friends is nothing to be proud of .

              • veritybrown says:

                Calling a power company to say, “No, please don’t turn off our power. Someone’s life depends on it” is hardly an unreasonable “hoop” to ask people to jump through. If the family had responded and said, “We need more time to pay and/or get the paperwork,” and THEN the company had heartlessly cut them off, I would agree that the company was in the wrong. But apparently that’s not how it happened. Whoever was responsible for paying the utility bills is the person who needs to be blamed in this case.

                The reason that these medical exemptions must be renewed is because people move frequently in today’s society. The company tried multiple times to alert this family, first that the medical exemption was expiring, then that the bill had not been paid, and finally that the power was going to be shut off. They even had someone knock on the door (and I have to wonder why no one answered)! What more were they supposed to do? Were they supposed to supply free electricity to this address indefinitely because once-upon-a-time someone with a medical condition lived there? This woman might have moved, she might have been put in a nursing home, she might have already died, for all that the company knew. What, exactly, were they supposed do to that they did not? Attempts to contact the residents were unsuccessful.

                A single phone call from the residents could have prevented this from happening. If we are going to give people ANY freedom to make their own choices, that must include the freedom to make bad choices, and obviously a bad choice was made here BY THE RESIDENTS–the choice to ignore numerous, timely warnings that the power was going to be shut off. The result was tragic. But the idea that we can make criminally bad choices but make someone else responsible the consequences is one of the (many) absurdities of far-left idealism.

            • crashfrog says:

              Yeah, I mean how was the power company supposed to know that she hadn’t just regrown her lungs? I mean that happens all the time, right?

              Human lives trump bureaucracy, too.

      • VashTS says:

        True, if it was a rich white woman…uproar.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      “How is this any different?”

      Simple: Intent and motive.

  13. smo0 says:

    Sad… being a person who had to deal with medical issues, company restrictions and paperwork – I gotta say, getting a doctor’s note or signature on anything is a pain in the ass, I had to keep up on it. I went down to the various offices, got photocopies, did my own faxing and calling around.

    Much of the responsbility lies with the patient (whether it’s supposed to or not) having my experiences, I would never rely on these company’s to do their jobs. If she lacked the capacity to do this, be it for medical reasons, she should have had someone maintain these records (keep up with renewals of the paperwork.)

    If it’s state law that the power doesn’t get cut for medical reasons, then the power company should have never had an expiration date.

    Over all, I blame the system which forces people to have to keep tabs on their “paperwork.”

    • chrisgoh says:

      To be fair, wouldn’t there need to be some sort of expiration? I mean the alternative is that if someone in a household ever required electric for medical reasons, then as long as electric remained in the same persons name, they could never get shut off. So for example, person B owns home, person A moves in and has a medical note requiring electricity not to be turned off. Person A moves somewhere else/dies/etc. Person B can now not pay their electric bill for as long as they live there an not risk having the power shut off. Periodically renewing your status seems like a fair compromise.

    • Commenter24 says:

      Why shouldn’t individuals be responsible for their own paperwork? Why should the burden get pushed onto someone else just so YOU don’t have to take care of it yourself?

      • smo0 says:

        Generally speaking, I shouldn’t have to get up and use my time to fax paperwork and make phone calls to make sure people have the appropriate information about whatever medical condition or situation I’m dealing with – that’s why I pay my insurance company the big $$.
        There is nothing in the policy stating I have to do this, it should be done. In reality, it’s not – that’s why I stated that if she was unable to take care of this paperwork herself, she should have designated someone do it for her, POA so to speak.

        • Commenter24 says:

          Your insurance company isn’t your personal assistant. Perhaps you have a distorted perception regarding what your insurance company is supposed to provide. It’s not your insurance company’s job to ensure all of your personal affairs are in order, and it shouldn’t have to pay someone to track down your utility company and other service providers that might need to know about your medical issues and inform them. If you want someone to take care of that stuff for you, hire a personal assistant. Otherwise, grow up and realize that these things are part of being a functioning, independent adult.

          • smo0 says:

            Awesome. I did that. I’m commenting that it shouldn’t be a requirement (and it isn’t) that I continuously seek approvals and fax info.

            I’ve seen it work, when a doctor’s office has their ducks in a row and keeps a go-between regarding faxes and mailing documentation. I’ve also seen it fail miserably with a response, “we haven’t gotten around to it yet.” It’s the difference between submitting requests to have something done, and submitting a request then doing it yourself. They still make out with your money.

  14. chrisgoh says:

    Very sad…BUT from the facts presented, the company followed all requirements…the family did not, even after multiple notices. I know there was a sign on the door, and I’d probably have at least called back to the home office for a double check/confirmation before cutting the power but I’m sure anyone can make a random sign to put on the door. Curious, does the application with the medical note possibly include other family/doctor contacts, in this case, just to be on the safe side, might have been a good idea to call them. Also, the article says she was unconscious within an hour of the power being shut off. That would seem to indicate that had the power simply gone out, she’d have been in this same situation, again tragic, but, at least where I live, pretty likely to happen over any reasonable length of time.

  15. drburk says:

    An your have a problem with non-voluntary opt out?

  16. hills says:

    I’d like to see people taking more personal responsibility – if your LIFE depends on a machine that requires electricity then you need to make sure you’re doing everything correctly to have electricity, and you need to make sure you have a back-up. I wouldn’t put my life in the hands of a corporation like an electric company…

    I’d also like to see the medical notes or whatever they were be valid for 1 year & renewable.

    • izl says:

      Perfect. It’s tragic that this happened, but I agree that if your life depends on it, get it taken care of. Sadly, since this person (or her family) didn’t take care of her priorities, a company made the decision for her.

  17. Yoya says:

    But Phaneuf, who relied on an oxygen machine because she suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, was inside. By the time her husband, Stephen, arrived home an hour later, she was unconscious. The machine, a plug-in, had stopped working. Stephen Phaneuf called 911. Two days later, his 54-year-old wife was dead…..

    It could of just been her time too.

  18. not-gonna-tell-ya says:

    I hate to sound crass here, but the company isn’t her caregiver. The company has clear rules in place to prevent this, and they were followed to the letter. If anyone here is at fault it is the caregiver for negligence in caring for the woman. If you bleeding hearts want to go after someone, go after THAT person for failing to keep her bills paid, failure to apparently keep her notification current, and failure to even apparently read the mail coming into the home which clearly would have shown that this was a pending disaster.

    Where in the world has personal responsibility gone in this world? What do you expect companies to just give free services to everyone? How about in 20 years when the boomers are retired? You want all of the boomers that didn’t save adequately for retirement to have all of their bills paid for too? Its sad that you all are cloaking personal irresponsibility in a thin layer of “corporate greed”, or in-humanity. How about the greed of the people that didn’t plan for the future.

    Take this, my neighbor buys new cars every 2 years and gets all of the new toys when they are released. Should I have to cover his medical expenses, and apparently now utility bills when he is older and can’t afford to pay? THAT is the takeaway here.

    • Commenter24 says:

      This. Unfortunately, many commenters on here don’t believe in any sort of personal responsibility; they believe others should just take care of them, for the sake of “humanity.”

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        Yeah! Society works so much better when we look out for #1 and screw over everyone else!

        • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

          1: she wasn’t disabled, she was elderly and on life sustaining medical equipment.
          2: who do you believe screwed her? the post office? the envelope company? The electric company for not providing free service? or her caregiver for not paying the bill or providing updated information?

          • Randell says:

            She wasn’t even elderly. She was only 53. That is hardly elderly. Total responsibility falls on her husband and/or family to make sure these things are taken care of.

    • evnmorlo says:

      The electric company is a quasi-socialist enterprise and should indeed have a responsibility not to shut off power to the disabled. Having to repeatedly submit notification not to shut off power is unduly burdensome to sick people–one notice per lifetime should be enough. Assuming there aren’t too many shutoffs per day the FD or PD should check on occupants before any shutoff.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        “one notice per lifetime should be enough.”

        What happens if she recovers from her illness? Should she keep receiving free power? Everything has an expiration date for a reason.

  19. DanRydell says:

    She relies on this machine to live, but it did not have battery backup? Or at least adequate battery backup? So a tree branch taking down a power line would have killed her just the same?

    She received notice that her medical letter was going to expire, she received notice that her power was going to be shut off, and she presumably received notice that she had not paid her electric bill. Who was reading the mail? She lived with her husband, did he just ignore the notices?

    It sounds to me like the power company did everything right here. They did nothing unreasonable. I can’t believe so many people are blaming the power company and ignoring the husband’s role in this. His neglect led to her death. I think you’re all just blinded by corporate hate.

    • pixiegirl says:

      Continuous oxygen machines do not have batteries. They require electricity to work, portable oxygen tanks are simply just tanks and when they run out you need to change the tanks. Where I live if you have a documented medical condition that requires electricity the utility company is supposed to supply you with a back up generator in case their is some emergency that causes you to loose power.

      • ohhhh says:

        UPS – uninterruptable power supply, we have them at work and they will provide 12-14 hours of run time to the control systems to get the facility to a safe condition, they generally contain batteries and aren’t a part of any system but they provide continuous and filtered power even if the power source is lost. this is something she should have had if it was so important to keep the equipment running.

        • aja175 says:

          The UPS you have at work that supplies the building (more likely only the datacenter) with 12-14hrs uptime is probably the size of a small house. At least a large room full of car batteries.

          • ohhhh says:

            while ours supplies more than just our datacenter, a reasonably sized UPS for her would have at least notified her of a problem, again if it was that crucial a generator or UPS system should have been installed with it.

      • Difdi says:

        Since when do batteries not provide electricity?

    • WeirdJedi says:

      I sort of agree with you. Notifications were sent left and right. They even went to the door to check. It is sad to see someone die, but I can’t seem to find any reason why it would be the company’s fault. The only other thing I could think of is if the company had some sort of emergency phone number where they could call the doctor or caregiver.

      I don’t know the full story or how the law applies to this situation. Maybe they will find the facts in the investigation.

  20. yankinwaoz says:

    I don’t understand something. If her life depended on electrically powered equipment, then where was the backup system? And why didn’t that kick in when the power was cut? Did she have a generator on standby ready to kick on?

    If there was no backup system, then this was just a disaster waiting to happen.

    • veritybrown says:

      I agree. If the power had gone out for ANY reason, the same thing would have happened. The electric company cannot control things like storms or someone running into a power pole. The caretaker’s failure to have a backup system in place is the real cause of this woman’s death.

  21. tosser says:

    I work with in-home oxygen equipment as part of my job, so i may be able to offer some relevant information.

    O2 concentrators are very common these days, especially among senior citizens, and while they are often very beneficial for a patient’s quality of life, it’s highly unusual that a person would die within an hour of being off of one. They are usually intended to be supplemental as opposed to life-sustaining, and the paperwork signed by a client when taking delivery will typically state as such. In addition, my company. at least, requires a patient to have at least several hours of back-up tank oxygen on site in case a client loses power or needs to make an emergency trip to the hospital.

    As another commenter noted, the sign on the door was simply a sign informing visitors not to smoke around the patient’s oxygen concentrator, not a “This person is confined to an oxygen tent and will die if the power is cut off” sign.

    While I think it’s awful that this poor person died, IMHO, the neglegtfulness and sheer stupidity of whomever was tasked with providing for her well-being was the real cause of her death. Machine failures and power outages aren’t just common, they’re inevitable. To not plan for such a happenstance, especially when given three month’s notice is the very definition of carelessness.

  22. Preppy6917 says:

    Since the article pimps the fact that she was a grandmother, where was her family?

  23. Shivar says:

    These guys aren’t at fault.

    I don’t agree with the idea that they are somehow at fault. The lady’s medical note thingy wasn’t renewed (A recent consumerist article explained that it must be done every 30 or 60 days), and so they had no way of knowing about it. She didn’t respond when told of this. She didn’t respond when told she hadn’t paid and service would be cut off, and so her service was cut off.

    How is that anyone’s fault but her own?

  24. kcvaliant says:

    How do they know if their letters or expiration and past due were even sent??

    • Shivar says:

      Because they put them in the mail and they weren’t returned. With that, they have sent them, and they are not at fault even if they weren’t received.

    • EllenRose says:

      It’s entirely possible the letters weren’t sent; I don’t know how many people have lied to me about them giving me notice about something. On the other hand, I have given people notice, and been yelled at for not doing so. Then, upon giving them the date, they ‘suddenly found’ the notice in their e-mail or files.

      There are a lot of things to check out here, and proof of having sent notice is only one of them.

  25. ttw1 says:

    From the article-

    “It’s fairly obvious that she needed to be hooked up to a machine to live, and the oxygen device that she required to live was no longer operable because there was no electricity,’’ Patten said.

    He said the machine had a backup battery but it had not been activated and he did not know whether it was working properly.

    • guspaz says:

      A battery backup that requires manual activation is useless for a medical device that you might not notice if it isn’t operating (especially if you’re sleeping).

      The solution here was simple. Plug the device into a good sized UPS. An APC Back-UPS RS-1500 with the extended run option can be purchased for $300-400, and provides about 250Wh of power. That sounds like enough to have kept the oxygen tent’s device from operating for at least an hour, although I have no idea how much power it might use.

      The important thing, though, is that as soon as the power failed and the UPS activated, the LOUD ANNOYING BEEPING would have woken her up, at which point she could have called 911 (or at least been aware that she might need to).

      Power is unreliable. This is a fact of life. An accident (Tree falling? Storm? Car crash? Blown transformer? Burnt fuse? Tripped circuit?) could have caused her power to fail for longer than an hour, which apparently was enough to kill her. What if the power failed normally during the night and stayed off for an hour? They’d have all slept right through it, and she’d be dead.

      It’s a really unfortunate situation, but the family clearly did not take adequate precautions to ensure that the equipment she required to live was sufficiently reliable.

  26. VashTS says:

    I hope the CEO or top guy goes to jail for murder. If it was a rich white woman who accidentally had her power off somehow due to National Grid “Headline NEWS at 10!”

    • SillyMama says:

      I realize you are being sarcastic (at least I hope you are) but a rich white woman would have paid her electric bill.

  27. DH405 says:

    First, the electric service should never have been cut off for the house. If they had a medical exemption on file within the last YEAR or perhaps even more, they should absolutely have to speak with someone in the house to confirm that the exemption is no longer needed. There’s NO room for “Well, the old lady shoulda sent the form in!”

    This was the result of laziness, stupidity, and likely greed. You think they want renewals of these medical exemptions for YOUR benefit? They want them to expire so that they can use the motivation of you losing power.

    Second, though, these sorts of medical devices should have some serious backup power. If it is critical to a person’s survival, a drunk driver taking out a power line should not be able to stop its operation. Seems pretty simple, right?

    • Shivar says:


      Why is there no room for “She should’ve done her responsibility and sent the form in”? Why should they be punished for following protocol? Why are they at fault for not going “Well, maybe we should ignore the fact that the form wasn’t sent in”?

      It is not. The electric company’s fault. That they didn’t renew the form thing.

      It is not. Their job. To give leeway on such things.

      Don’t want your power cut off because you need it for medical purposes? Then don’t fucking forget to send in your renewal form. It’s a very simple concept and it blows my mind that people are actually blaming the electric company for this stuff!

      • DH405 says:

        How many very ill people have you dealt with? Having known and helped a few older people with serious health issues, I can tell you that it does mess with their mental capacity.

        Hey, if you ever wind up needing an oxygen machine due to a serious terminal illness that also gives you about 5 seconds of short-term memory at a time, I hope you stick by your guns on the “The dead lady got what she had comin'” issue.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          In these situations, there’s very little the utility companies can do — they sent multiple letters and sent somebody to the door. The woman in question lived with her husband, who is ultimately responsible for what happened. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say that they were most likely behind on several bills and simply stopped opening the past due notices. The letters from the electric company were probably tossed without ever being opened.

  28. balthisar says:

    I sympathize, but mistakes happen, and if you don’t pay your bill, and the mistake happens to you, then, well? And yes, this could certainly happen to me in a distant future. That’s the risk I’d take by being a deadbeat.

  29. aj1978 says:

    I am very familiar with National Grid’s medical policy, because I processed medical documents, put disconnect notices on hold for customers with medical emergencies and called in emergency cut-in’s (where a customers power was disconnected and they send in proper paperwork to get it reconnected).

    I would first like to point out that service technicians have NO information regarding past medical documentation for customers. They receive a disconnect order, arrive at the premise to attempt a field collection/make contact with the customer.

    I worked on accounts from a different state, so my what I experienced may not be what the NH PUC requires, but I am fairly certain that National Grid has a uniform policy across the company that satisfies all regulators in all the states they operate in, and I believe they exceed the length of time required by all those regulators.

    There are two ways of preventing your power from being disconnected for medical reasons: You submit requests for holds for 60 days (temporary holds to prevent abuse) or you can enroll in the life-support program which is permanent and requires tagging of the meter and offers closer monitoring by field supervisors and customer service during an outage. I don’t recall the requirements of life support (I didn’t process those) but I know that things like dialysis machines are accepted.

    The process goes like this, and I have to admit that most people I encountered who used the medical emergency were people who were behind on their bills, had their power cut off, and used their kids nebulizer as a reason to get it back on. Many repeat customers, many obvious forgeries, many BS excuses (depression, fear of the dark, special food in the fridge, etc) that I was required to turn back on or put on hold because they have a note from the doctor stating that loss of power would be detrimental to the health of the customer. That was the key phrase. Now, if I received a note without those magical words, I would still place the account on hold for two weeks, call the customer and tell them to resend a revised note. If i received an illegible fax and could make out the account number only, they would still get that hold. After the hold or cut in is processed, a letter immediately goes out to the customer explaining that this is a 60 day extension for the customer to allow them time to make arrangements for the bill. Before the 60 days is up, another reminder is sent that expiration is imminent. After it expires, normal disconnect procedures are followed which could take another few weeks with the sending of a notice, phone calls, etc. When your power is about to be shut off, unless you don’t have a phone or a mailbox, you will know about it.

    It seemed this customer should have been on life-support, but the company does not review each account with a medical hold to determine that, it is the customers responsibility. Documents that are sent for medical emergencies specifically point out the life support program.

    I may have missed a lot, and again I worked in a different state and I am not familiar with NH regulations, but that is the gist of how the system works. This person should have either been on a life support program or have kept up with the many documents and phone calls sent to them. And as a rule, to anyone out there, if you feel like you have a special need and it isn’t being taken care of by a utility, please contact your Utility Commission. They will get you a consumer advocate and help you out. You may not get what you want, because in many cases the utility follows the rule, but they are always listened to.

    This is very tragic, and if it was caused by the loss of power, very preventable.

  30. SillyMama says:

    “The last thing that we want to do is cut off a person’s service.’’

    Yeah, right. A cutoff nets the company a reconnection/late fee which brings up the bottom line.

    Don’t get me wrong – I agree with most of the comments: the electric company did everything they were supposed to in my opinion.

  31. hmburgers says:

    Obviously a very sad situation, but I see this as the fault of the victim’s family (assuming the victim was unable to make proper arrangements herself)

    The power company gave 90 days notice of the cut off and received no response from the family, including a husband who was apparently living there.

    In addition, from the Globe:
    “By the time her husband, Stephen, arrived home an hour later, she was unconscious. The machine, a plug-in, had stopped working.”

    ” said the machine had a backup battery but it had not been activated and he did not know whether it was working properly.”

    So who is more negligent? The power company that tried several times over 90 days to warn these people that either they need to pay their bill or get cut off (or provide legitimate medical proof of need)? The husband and family didn’t hook up the battery!! Who was responsible for setting up the machine? THEY are the ones who are truly at fault for this.

    My guess is that national grid will settle, despite this not being their fault.

  32. SlappyWhite says:

    Wow, cant believe some people are blaming the electric company!

    To echo previous comments, they sent a few notices, made some calls, and even sent a person to the door! Thats the trump card, how many companies will send a live person to your door to remind you to pay the bill?
    I dont see what else the electric company could have possibly done here. I say blame the husband. He must have known the bill was past due, and if its that big of a deal to keep the machine going, you bet I would have done whatever to insure it would be working.

  33. Robert Terwilliger says:

    When in doubt blame The Man, that seems to be the way things work.

  34. JuanHunt says:

    Send the notices registered mail. In the letter request a confirmation call or letter that the recipient has read and understands that the power will be cut off unless the medical hold is reinstated. National Grid just assumed that the letters were in fact delivered, and that is always a mistake. And in the case of potential life or death, criminally negligent.

  35. pixiegirl says:

    I say this as someone who’s mother had COPD and was on oxygen for 11 years. The fact that the DR note was expired shouldn’t matter, her condition was chronic meaning that it doesn’t go away. I think all the people jumping on the husbands back saying that he was neglectful need to back off. As someone who was a caregiver for 11 years, I can tell you I’m sure I forgot to do plenty of things somewhere between my 40hrs a week at work, going to school, and taking care of my mom. Being a caregiver is VERY stressful. I will also say that none of the oxygen concentrators we had(and we went threw quite a few) a back-up battery. And machines do have problems. There were times where either myself or my dad came home and my mom had to go to the ER b/c the concentrator stopped working and she suffered a severe lack of oxygen and she was not physically able to get to her back up oxygen on her own. Lack of oxygen severely impairs your ability to move around. Where I live if you have a documented medical condition that requires the use of electricity, the company is required to provide you a back up generator for use in case of emergencies. I wonder if they had a autopsy to determine that was the cause of death. It’s sad either way, but hate to think that she slowly suffocated to death which would be extremely painful.

    • coren says:

      I can understand missing something once, but missing it twice over the course of a month, when it’s something you’ve had to do on a regular basis for years (on top of not paying the bill) seems a bit much to me…

  36. ElizabethD says:

    If something dire should befall me (God forbid), I pray that the headline doesn’t read “58 year old grandmother…”.

    Yes, I am a grandmother. But that’s not who I am, if you know what I mean.

  37. gr8smile says:

    I work for an electric co, and have performed collection work similar to this. Disclaimer, I do live in a different state under different laws, but here I go anyway.

    The power co. tried several times to notify this customer that the power would be terminated. Most of these notices don’t even start to arrive in the mail until the customer is a couple of months past due, and are designed to be delivered according to the laws of the state. I’m sure that National Grid has long established procedures in place that ensure the letter of the law is followed. Its not like they just showed up unannounced one day and shut off the power when the cust was 5 days behind.

    The customer was not paying her bill, nor was she or her doctor communicating with the company. The customer and the doctor should have been communicating with each other and the power company to work out a payment solution. A medical condition is not an excuse to NOT pay for services provided. Usually medical documentation is utilitzed to afford a delinquent customer an OPPORTUNITY TO FIND THE NECESSARY RESOURCES (such as going to social services for assistance or borrowing money from family) to pay the required charges, not a forgiveness of the monies owed. It is merely a time delay. It is still the responsibility of the consumer of the services to pay for the services, regardless of the medical condition. There are VERY FEW people who qualify for true “Life Support” status, where their account gets permanently noted that they cannot be shut off for non-payment- in my state it is in-home kidney dialysis and iron lungs. Nebulizers and oxygen users don’t qualify.

    You still need to PAY YOUR BILLS!!

    Oh, and I always loved the people who were about to get shut off who would say: But I have kids!! My response? Sorry, we don’t take kids as payment. My company is not responsible for taking care of your children. Pay your bills. Turn off the cell phones, turn off the cable service, turn off the telephone. Stop eating at McDonalds. Don’t buy big screen tvs and XBox games. If you consider electricity to be a life necessity, then you need to make paying for the service a priority, instead of thinking that you should get it for free. Especially welfare recipients and people who appear to have lots of money (big expensive houses and cars)- they were the worst. Just my opinion (and experience).

    Another option– buy a generator and pay for the gas to run your house. The gas co requires you to pay up front. How about if the electric companies started that (it happens in England)….???

  38. SlimDan22 says:

    Overall, misleading title, but im not going to blame the victim, i think its a mixture of the family and utility company’s fault. Seems like no one wants to accept responsibility, which is common for a lot of things nowadays

    Anyways, there was a similar situation in my area where elderly man froze to death after his electricity was turned off.

    Another note, i think electricity is just one of the resources that we are becoming more heavily dependent on much like access to clean water, not saying it should be free but its just one of this resources that is important to people, specially with heat and medical needs.

    • StoicLion says:

      While this situation is tragic, I don’t see what else the utility company could have done. They provided numerous warnings to the family but were ignored. And the sign people keep pointing out refers to not smoking near oxygen tanks, it says NOTHING about needing electricity. The company informed the family of the impending power shut off, giving the family ample time to make restitution or some kind of agreement to prevent this from happening. What else was the utility supposed to do? Instead of emoting over the actions of the company (which were legal), why not look at the irresponsible family who neglected to inform the company of the poor woman’s continuing need. I doubt most people will do that since it’s easier to emote than to think.

      Dan, it’s Ironic you had a vagrancy epipany; I had the opposite reaction after “volunteering” to serve Thanksgiving about 15-years ago. I went in with all the expected sympathies but after serving turkey to the “homeless” (who were surprisingly able-bodied and sound-minded adults), I changed my opinion. I realized that the majority of homeless are lazy, shiftless people who wasted the numerous opportunites available to them in society, became addicted to drugs and alcohol and now play on the sympathies (ie, ignorances) of most people. I continue to have sympathy for children in these situations, I donate to organizations that work to end homelessness in children. But I do NOTHING for homeless adults.

      Despite the numerous strikes against me growing up (raised by a single parent, lived in an inner city neighborhood, black – I don’t see that as a strike but some do) I managed to avoid the pitfalls leading to vagrancy.

  39. backinpgh says:

    When someone has a medical notice on their file, surely that includes a doctor’s note, which surely, in turn, contains the doctor’s contact information. What are the chances that someone with a medical problem requiring constant electricity service would suddenly be cured? Probably somewhere between slim and none. I agree with the poster that said the medical note shouldn’t expire unless and until they contact SOMEONE saying that the medical problem is no longer valid.

    • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

      conversely, when a customer doesn’t pay their bill, and ignores repeated attempts at contact from the business, how long does that business need to wait? Some of you people think 90 days isn’ enough. How about 180? how about a year?

    • veritybrown says:

      What are the chances that a person with a medical condition requiring constant electricity might have been put in a nursing home? Or have already died? There’s no reason to assume that a very ill person will continue to live in this home indefinitely, and a lot of reasons to assume that such a person is no longer living there, especially when multiple notices are ignored and a knock on the door is NOT ANSWERED.

      Perhaps you’d like to volunteer to personally subsidize the electricity for all future residents of this home? Hm, thought not.

  40. Extended-Warranty says:

    As sad as the story is, I find it hard to blame the electric company and have any sympathy.

    I’m willing to bet everything in my name that either her, the husband, or both clearly knew the power was going to be shut off. They could have very easily have called and tried to work something out. Instead, we have another story of someone who is “clearly entitled” to not follow the rules.

    Put yourself into the shoes of the electric company. LOTS of people don’t pay their bills. Are you suddenly going to check to make sure everyone will be ok without their power? Give me a break. They did their part.

  41. lincolnparadox says:

    While I am all for personal responsibility here, this story should also be a wake-up call for everyone who reads this story. The message that we should all take away from this piece is that we need to protect our loved ones and be proactive. We need to be the one who make sure that our parents/grandparents/aunts and uncles/next-door neighbors are okay. Because they are our responsibility.

    The only way any of us are going to get out of this mess is by helping each other. This “f**K everyone else but me” attitude is exactly why everything sucks right now.

  42. Bativac says:

    This seems symptomatic of a larger problem today – there seems to be a sense among many people that “someone must take care of me.” Actually, the only right we really have as humans is to die if we aren’t careful, so you have to take care of yourself. This means that sometimes when people are sick and have nobody to care for them, they are going to die.

    This is an extremely unfortunate situation. The power company did what they were supposed to do, and I don’t think anybody involved could have known somebody was going to die if they shut off the power – otherwise I am sure they wouldn’t have done it. It’s a shame whoever was so quick to run to the media when the lady died wasn’t diligent enough to keep an eye on her.

  43. newfenoix says:

    This was murder, plain and simple. It may not be according to law or someone’s pathetic regulation but it is still murder. Some of the remarks that I have read here today are proof that there are corporate shills still posting on this site. I have news for you…human is worth more than dollars. If you are so loathsome and low that you can’t see that well, then I’ll pray for you.

    • veritybrown says:

      And the murderer was…*drumroll*…the woman’s caregiver. The caregiver had no backup system in place (apparently the oxygen system’s battery backup had not even been turned on!). What if a storm or a car accident had knocked out the power? The woman would still have died, since she apparently began to suffer serious problems almost immediately after the power was turned off. When your life depends on *constant* delivery of oxygen, any sensible person would have double or even triple backup systems in place. The failure to have those systems was criminal on the part of the caregiver.

    • wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

      First of all, she had caregivers who failed to do their jobs. She could’ve had back-ups in place, or rather her caregivers could have, and this would not have happened. The person who checks her mail could have called the power company.

      Also, is it only murder because a company shut off her power, and not the people in her life taking care of her? What about them?

  44. 47ka says:

    I find it telling of the mentality of the average Consumerist reader that the outrage on this thread is much more subdued than the outrage on the Costco thread.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Can you imagine if this woman’s husband, in a display of frustration and impatience, had cut in line to pay the power bill? There would be people calling for his head to be severed and his neck cavity to be stuffed with the membership agreement.

  45. The Marionette says:

    If the company followed proper procedure then there’s nothing wrong on their part, especially considering they sent notices out before with no response.

  46. brinks says:

    She’s a victim of crappy policy and some oversights, but I don’t think the power company did anything wrong.

    Why does she have to renew her information every 60 days? That’s ridiculous. If she previously had a medical certification for a CHRONIC condition, why the hell should that EVER expire? If they did send a renewal notice and neither the woman nor her husband responded, I don’t know if we can really fault the power company. The policy sucks, but it seems to me like they followed it.

    If it was me or a loved one, you can be sure I’d send in the renewal information and follow up with a phone call. Doesn’t it seem as though the woman and her husband were at fault for not ensuring things were in order when it was a matter of LIFE AND DEATH?

    Also, what went wrong with the battery back-up? A storm, accident, or any random incident could cause the power to go out for a couple of hours. Had that happened, she still would have died. The couple did not do their part in what was necessary to ensure her safety. I can’t blame to power company for that.

    • veritybrown says:

      Why should her certification never expire? Hmmmm….let’s see. Are you saying that you would like to personally subsidize the electricity of every future resident of this home? The company had no way of knowing whether this woman still lived in the home. She might have gone into a nursing home. She might have died. When there was NO RESPONSE to ANY of their efforts to contact the residents, INCLUDING HAVING SOMEONE KNOCK ON THE DOOR, were they supposed to just assume that the woman still lived there…indefinitely?

  47. cmdr.sass says:

    Give all the warnings, maybe this is what the husband wanted.

  48. jurupa says:

    The number of people here in favor of not taken personal responsibility is astonishing. The electric company did more than enough on their part and yet they still get the blame. Amazing. I just hope Consumerist turns around and starts to promote self responsibility instead of blaming others, I mean blaming companies for the short coming of others lack of personal responsibility.

  49. doctordan says:

    I suppose my question to everyone here who has the kneejerk “the company killed her” reaction— what SHOULD have the electric company have done? If someone hasn’t paid their bills, doesn’t respond to notices, etc.— then what should they do? Should they just keep providing free electricity? Imagine if they did, as someone suggested— sent the police to check in on her and she was fine— then complaints about big corporations invading one’s privacy would crop up. It’s easy to criticize but it’s hard for some of you folks to actually spell out what would have been a more reasonable response.

  50. Fenrisulfr says:

    Though this is tragic, paying the bill on time would have prevented all of this.

  51. bonzombiekitty says:

    Assuming the electric company is telling the truth, I cannot fault the electric company over this. They followed a reasonable procedure, which went above what is required by law, and took reasonable action. Someone failed her, but it wasn’t the electric company. What failed her was herself and/or her care givers. They are the ones that did not respond to inquiries from the electric company. If you or your caregivers are unable to perform a basic task like responding to letters from the electric company, then you should be placed in alternative care.

    If a third party is to share some of the blame, it might be whoever made the battery backup for the oxygen system. The article said it was present but not working. If the battery failed due to a fault rather than user error, then the manufacturers of the device do share some of the blame. But I don’t see how the electric company is to blame here.

  52. sp00nix says:

    Should t such a device have some sort of battery backup? What if a storm takes the power out, or a Plymouth sun dances into a pole?

  53. nickmark says:

    If i where the worker and saw the oxygen sign I would have called my supervisor advised some one with medical condition was in home and might need the power kept on. and asked for a clarification before disconnecting.

    But obviously our public school educations have once again come thru loud and clear to not use our brains.

    This is why when i have to work on electrical circuits I use a pad lock not a zip tie to turnoff an electrical switch because of all the stupid ,ignorant ,uneducated people our schools have produced who have no common sense and would take the zip tie off and turn the switch on.because they found it off
    I see it everyday.

  54. Hoss says:

    Some of the responders here are completely heartless. A couple handling a serious illness is obviously overwhelmed with bills and keeping up with activities. The article indicates minimal steps and fast action by National Grid (formerly Keyspan). A two letters apparently send regular mail and 45 days later they determine there is an intent not to respond. How do they know a lawyer wasn’t responding (which takes time) or there was a response but it had not been recorded in their system yet? There is no indication they tried to make personal contact other than one visit (no phone calls are mentioned).

    So some here blame the customer since she has responsibilities. How about the responsibility of the power company? A power company that has an account with a medical note should have more responsibility to protect lives. If it was winter (in my state at least) they lawfully could not shut off power since the lack of heat might kill someone.

    We all know that when times are tough we pay the company that is the most aggressive. National Grid and Keyspan before them hasn’t been aggressive in the least about collecting overdue accounts. I handle condo bills and pay National Grid twice a year. I’ve never gotten any notice that my payments were 6 months behind. Not even an interest charge.

    So some utility worker shows up at a house to shut off the power. When he noticed the sign on the door, did he call a supervisor and ask about next steps? Some intelligence from start of issue 45 days ago to now would have been helpful. A medical note expires — well was there any change in the electricity demand? No, well red lights — the customer is still alive and needing a supply of power. A notice on the door and the electric meter is still running? Another red light, it would be an electric dryer or it could be life support why take a chance?

    Again, no indications of a personal contact such as phone calls or messages, other than one visit by a worker.

    National Grid fka Keyspan has responsibility to the community and they did a minimum to protect this person.

    Some here get excited only about things that affect their lives — receipt checkers, Comcast, etc. Have some heart for your neighbors.

    I send this article to the Consumerist last Thursday and also send it to my congressmen and state reps. Screw up another time National Grid and you’ll find yourself with enough red tape as to never have the power react to unpaid bills.

    • Avrus says:

      How about the responsibility of her family? Your grandmother is in an oxygen tent and in such bad health she can’t read or respond to her mail and you do nothing?


      My grandma was in excellent health and I saw her at least twice a week.

      • Hoss says:

        You can’t prove a negative — you don’t know they read and ignored messages. She lives with her husband. For all we know he was out getting the portable oxygen machine serviced. How do you know he didn’t care? (A 53 year old doesnt have grown grandchildren for cripes sakes)

  55. pot_roast says:

    Where was the family in all of this? Were none of them around to assist her with bills & finances? Nobody noticed that unpaid utility bills were piling up?

    I bet they’ll show up all weepy eyed when it comes time to talk about the huge lawsuit they’ll be filing.

    • Hoss says:

      There’s plenty of evidence here that the utility company acted irresponsibly. There’s no evidence of her husband’s actions.

    • the_wiggle says:

      really? assuming the family willfully ignored granny?

      please. in this economy, this corporatist world – did it ever occur to you that her family might be working? even if at jobs with FMLA – ever tried to get FMLA for family care? good luck with that. assuming of course you can afford that unpaid FMLA time. . .

  56. Trilby says:

    As a woman who is 58, I really hate that this woman is identified as a grandmother! How many times do you see a man identified as a grandfather? Um, never! Unless it’s directly relevent to the story.

  57. Not Given says:

    They should have called and knocked on the door repeatedly even if it took several days and several visits and actually talked to a real live person before turning off the power.

    It isn’t a stretch for me to believe that the ‘professionsal’ who set up the oxygen machine didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t get the battery backup set up right. In the HOSPITAL after surgery my mother’s oxygen saturation alarm kept going off and my sister kept calling the nurse and complaining about it. The nurse kept saying stuff like, oh she moved her finger don’t worry about it, even when my sister was looking at her finger when it went off. Finally that one went off duty and another nurse came on. When my sister told her about all the alarms, the first thing she did was check and the oxygen wasn’t even PLUGGED in!!

  58. Puddy Tat says:

    These people should be charged with murder and prosecuted accordingly, I agree with Beeker once a person has a medical exemption on your power you DON’T turn off their power until you get in touch with someone period!

  59. misslisa says:

    In my community, we have power outages routinely. Lengthy ones. It’s the worst electrical service I’ve ever experienced (thanks, SRP). Oh, and it’s a retirement community – mostly “active adults,” but many with medical issues that require such equipment. If anything good can come from a tragedy, I hope that this one prompts people to ensure that their loved ones who require equipment to live have backup power supplies.

    • Hoss says:

      The article says she had a portable oxygen device. All we know is she was alone when her husband was out. The device may not have been within reach, or the husband may have been getting a refill.

  60. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Where the hell was this woman’s family? Why were they ignoring letters from the utility company?

    My ex’s mom was on two oxygen machines not long before she died, and someone on those things should not be left alone. You literally can’t get up, you can’t move around, because you’re tethered to the thing. The most she could do was go in to the bedroom where her potty was. The rest of the time she was either in bed or in her lift chair. And she weighed close to 400 pounds because she couldn’t move much.

    If the family had trouble paying the bill, they should have called the company and tried to work with them. I’ve had to do that in the winter when gas prices get really high. They were so bad this year that I just THIS MONTH got caught up. I just kept paying the past due amount until the current amount dropped low enough that I could pay all at once. Mine also takes payments. Surely they could have worked something out.

  61. Verdant Pine Trees says:

    Hate to see people blaming the victim here. We don’t know anything about her or her husband, or why she, he, and her medical provider did not respond to mail. But utilities service, like education and health care, reflect basic human needs. You want to go into that business, you need to respect what it means to people’s very existence.

    I agree that it’s not smart to have to renew medical notes; when in doubt, with the past inclusion of a medical note, they shouldn’t cut the line after one visit. You can set up systems to reflect this. So the company makes a little less profit, in order to protect the most at-risk customers from dying or being hurt? From a business and a moral standpoint that’s a fair tradeoff.

    One thing to consider is that sometimes – of all things – mail gets lost or delayed. For more than a year we dealt with a horrible power provider who refused to update our address. Imagine if you live in West L.A. but some of your mail is coded for Santa Monica.

    I remember the moron I spoke to on the phone who insisted, absolutely insisted, which town I actually lived in. Every other piece of mail I had listed the correct address. As a result, until we got out of the contract, every bill arrived at least two weeks late, because it was being sent to the wrong post office – and no, they wouldn’t change our billing dates to factor in the apparent slowness of their bills. Sometimes we would literally receive the bills the day after they were due.

    Why do we automatically assume it’s this lady’s fault, and not the fault of the “proper procedure” employed by the company?

  62. Lollerface says:

    This could be a commercial for battery backups.