The emotional fight over the wishes of terminally ill banker Grace Sung Eun Lee reached a fever pitch Friday after the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court sided with original statements made by the 28-year-old woman. The court ruled the brain cancer patient could be removed from life support.
The battle deciding whether Lee will live, or be allowed to die, is being waged in the courts as her devoutly religious parents, Rev. Manho Lee and Jin-ah Lee, exhaust every option to prevent the removal of the tubes keeping their daughter alive.
Rev. Lee, the pastor of Antioch Missionary Church in Flushing, Queens, believes such a move would be tantamount to suicide and would therefore condemn her to hell, according to family lawyer Mary P. Giordano.
Paralyzed from the neck down, Lee has been under the care of doctors at the North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., since early September when she suffered a seizure and was hooked up to a ventilator, Newsday reports. Lee's lawyer David Smith said if she is removed from the ventilator, she will likely die within 15 minutes.
Lee's doctors at North Shore have maintained that she wishes to be removed from the machine.
Despite not being able to talk, Lee can shake her head, move her lips and blink "yes" or "no." Dr. Dana Lustbader, chief of palliative medicine at North Shore-LIJ, testified that Lee was quite emphatic in her wishes and remains lucid. "I believe she was clear in what she was asking for," he said. "She repeatedly asked for it and at times became frustrated and tearful that she needed to repeat it," Newsday reports.
While Lee's parents initially went along with their daughter's decision, according to the New York Daily News, they have since changed their minds and accused the doctors of drugging and influencing her decision (an opinion reiterated in this YouTube video posted earlier in September).
“They have no rights to take anyone’s life,” Rev. Lee said, according to The New York Times. “I believe my daughter is under depression and heavily medicated. I also believe she can win the battle and overcome this.”
In September, Rev. Lee attempted to become her legal guardian, and a judge initially ordered the hospital keep her on life support. That restraining order was lifted last Friday, and now today's ruling is one more step toward removal. The legal battle is not over yet, however, and could continue into Tuesday, when a judge in Nassau County will decide whether her father will be appointed legal guardian, according to Newsday.
In a weird twist, on Thursday, a video surfaced on Facebook, showing Lee in her hospital bed with her cousin stroking her face. "So, are you willing to sign over your medical proxy to your father?” the cousin asks, to which Lee mouths the word "yes," Gothamist reports.
Terry Lynam, a spokesman for North Shore-LIJ Hospital Systems, said the hospital will abide by the court's decision, but the Daily News reported that the video -- which could have been edited and excerpted from a longer conversation -- does not hold much legal weight.
Lee's attorney said that she is caught in an impossible situation.
“They stand there all day, and tell her that this is Satan’s work — and she loves her parents desperately," Smith said. “They do love her, equally. This is just awful.”
Warning: Some viewers may find the content of this video disturbing.