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Judge OKs end to row between ailing woman, kin

October 9, 2012 10:40:30 AM PDT
A judge on Tuesday signed off on an agreement that ends a legal dispute between a terminally ill New York woman and her parents.

Attorneys for 28-year-old Sungeun Grace Lee and her parents told a state Supreme Court judge that the woman had agreed to designate her father as her health proxy should she become incapacitated and unable to make health decisions for herself. The woman is currently deemed competent, and any decision about when she becomes incapacitated would be made by her doctors, attorneys said.

Lee, a New York City financial executive, was found to have a tumor on her brain stem last November and was hospitalized last month after suffering a seizure. Her doctors at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island have said the woman, who is now paralyzed from the neck down, is terminally ill.

She had expressed a desire to be taken off a ventilator that is helping to keep her alive, a decision her parents - devout Christians originally from Seoul, South Korea - opposed. 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. They had argued that their daughter's wishes were tantamount to committing suicide.

State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Phelan denied their request for a restraining order to stop the hospital from granting their daughter's wish. An appellate court upheld Phelan's initial ruling last Friday, but after that decision was announced, the woman changed her mind and decided to yield to her parent's wishes to fight her illness, according to her court-appointed attorney, David Smith.

Lee's parents believe their daughter will have a miraculous recovery.

"She is getting better every single day," the Rev. Lee told reporters through a Korean interpreter after Tuesday's court session in which Phelan signed off on him becoming his daughter's health proxy. He added later: "I really believe that a miracle will happen."

Smith said his client changed her mind in deference to her parents and to alleviate their suffering.

"I hope for the family's sake a miracle occurs," he said. "In the courthouse, we do not deal in miracles."

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