A cancer-stricken woman fighting a right-to-die battle against her parents won the backing of an appellate court Friday, which ruled that the 28-year-old bank manager from New York City who is paralyzed as a result of a brain tumor may decide her own fate.
The emotional case has been playing out in Grace SungEun Lee’s room at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, and on a Facebook page, Save Grace SungEun Lee, created by those who sided with family members desperate to keep Lee on life support.
As word of the appellate court’s decision spread Friday, the page was swarmed with comments from people arguing for and against it, underscoring the passionate debate that surrounds the issue of individuals’ rights to choose death over terminal illness.
Only two states, Oregon and Washington, permit people with terminal illnesses to request prescription medication to bring about death. But in all states, mentally competent adults may decide for themselves if they wish to go on with life-prolonging treatments even in the face of terminal illness.
That’s the situation Lee faced when she became paralyzed from the neck down in September as a result of a brain tumor and was given a few months to live. Lee has been on a ventilator since September, and her doctors at North Shore say she has clearly expressed a desire to be removed from life support to end the suffering.
Lee’s parents insist she is depressed and heavily medicated and in no position to make such a decision. The deeply religious couple also say that hastening death would be “a sin.”
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