MINEOLA, New York (AP) — A panel of judges declined Friday to interfere with a terminally ill New York City woman's wishes to be taken off a respirator, although her court-appointed attorney emphasized the woman has yet to formally request that action be taken.
The South Korean-born parents of 28-year-old Sungeun Grace Lee contend she is incapable of deciding what is best for her because of her condition and the fact that she is under heavy medication. The devoutly Christian couple says allowing their daughter to stop receiving treatment is tantamount to suicide.
Lee was diagnosed with a tumor on her brain stem last November, and was hospitalized last month after suffering a seizure. The New York City financial executive, who had once trained to run the New York City Marathon, is now paralyzed from the neck down. Her physicians believe she is competent to make her own medical decisions.
Man Ho Lee, pastor of Antioch Missionary Church in Queens, and his wife, Jin Ah Lee, sought a court order blocking doctors from removing her from a respirator should she make that formal request, her attorney, David Smith said. The appellate panel of judges on Friday refused to uphold what had been a temporary order halting the doctors from acting on the woman's wishes should she make a formal request.
Smith said that while the woman has expressed numerous times that she wants to end her suffering and be taken off a respirator, her primary motivation in opposing her parents in a court fight was to retain control over her own fate. He emphasized that the woman's parents remain at her bedside at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island.
He said no decision would likely be made about whether to request removal of the respirator until after a scheduled court hearing Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Mineola.
Her parents held an emotional press conference on Thursday in their attorney's office, insisting that Lee has indicated to them that she wants to live.
"We believe she can win this battle," her father told reporters through a Korean interpreter.