A state appeals court made a ruling Friday that will allow a New York hospital to take a 28-year-old woman with brain cancer off life support. The court denied a request by Grace Sungeun Lee's parents to prevent the hospital from removing her breathing tube.
The decision comes just a day after Lee's family uploaded a video on YouTube showing Lee, who is paralyzed from the neck down, agreeing to her father making the medical decisions for her. She also clearly indicated in the video that she wanted to go to a nursing home
Lee's parents have been trying to prevent the staff at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset from removing her breathing tube over the past few weeks. Lee was admitted in early September after suffering seizures and doctors have said she only has weeks or, at most, a few months to live.
The financial manager who actively volunteers at her father's Antioch Missionary Church in New York was diagnosed last November with glioma. The brain stem tumor is located in an area that interferes with her ability to breathe or move.
Her father, the Rev. Man Ho Lee, petitioned to become his daughter's legal guardian to make her medical decisions for her. According to court testimonies by the father and the patient's older brothers, Grace Lee agreed during a Sept. 13 meeting with two of the doctors present to have her family make the decisions.
But in court last week, doctors and other hospital staff testified that Lee repeatedly expressed her desire to be taken off life support.
In court last Friday before Judge Thomas Phelan, Dr. Dana Lustbader, chief of palliative medicine at North Shore, said Grace Lee has stated "every day" that she wants the breathing tube taken out. The patient has made the same statement to psychiatrist Dr. Brian Keefe and Tracy Moore, director of social work at the hospital, they testified.
The hospital staff also stated that Lee's cognitive ability was not impaired and that she has the capacity for medical decision making.
But Man Ho Lee believes his daughter has depression, has been heavily affected by the many different medications being administered and is being influenced by doctors.
While much has been made of the Lee family's beliefs – they believe taking her off life support is tantamount to suicide which would send her to hell – the family has stressed that this is not a religious matter.
"We think people think that this is just a family or religious issue. What they don't understand is WHY did God allow this happen? What was the reason? Here is what we think," says a recent post on the "Save Grace SungEun Lee" Facebook page.
"There are thousands of people dying everyday in PCU (Palliative Care Unit) all over US. We believe God wants everyone to be aware of these people dying without given a chance to think clearly about what they do without any influence of medical staffs and medications."
The father has also expressed in court that he genuinely believes his daughter is getting and will get better.
"I firmly believe that she can be treated and she will get better and she will come out of this. She is continuously getting better," the pastor stated last Friday.
"I am thanking God right now. My daughter might have died last Monday, but she's alive five more days. In our family there's a lot of males but there's only one daughter. This daughter, the thought of her dying, my heart tremors, everything goes black. I cannot eat," he testified. "I really, really, really wish that my daughter lives, and my daughter, she's under God's grace, and I believe in God. After she's treated, she said after she's treated she wants to go to places like Ethiopia and Africa and continue her missionary work.
"That's why whatever it takes so that she can live and fulfill her wish."