The right to die – whose choice?

This is truly a sad situation and one that needs to be examined.  Do we have the right to die?

This is Grace Sung Eun Lee’s story.

She is paralyzed from the neck down, tethered to breathing and feeding tubes — but Manhattan bank manager Grace Sung Eun Lee still managed to mouth four  words Wednesday.

“I want to die.”

Doctors are trying to honor Lee’s wish, but her devout parents believe that  removing the tubes is suicide — a sin that would condemn the 28-year-old to  hell.

Naturally enough her parents have tried to prevent her from committing this last act – but the courts ruled in favor of their daughter.

The Manhattan banker has been on a respirator since last month, unable to eat or breathe on her own. Her devout parents, who believe she’ll go to hell if she  pulls the plug, have been trying to block Long Island’s North Shore Hospital  from honoring her request to die.

But with the appellate court ruling,  Lee is now free to make her own decision.

“Whatever little power this  poor lady has left, she feels empowered that the court has clearly now  recognized that this is up to her and only up to her,” Smith said after  delivering the news to Lee.

Smith said Lee, who has an inoperable brain tumor, told him she was going to  speak with her doctors and relatives. What Lee will decide and when remains unknown.

“It is now as it ought to have been all along — a dying young  woman surrounded by her family and consulting with her doctors,” added Smith,  who will visit his client every day.

Hours after the ruling, Lee’s  family dismissed the judges’ decision. Without providing specifics, he vowed to  continue the legal fight.

“We cannot accept a court order that could take  someone’s life,” said her father, the Rev. Manho Lee. “Some people say my  daughter has the right to die. I think only God has the choice to take someone’s  life or not.”  With his wife, Jin-ah, sobbing beside him, Lee’s father  said the family believes she’s getting better.

Despite winning, she now apparently wants to stay on the respirator and continue fighting:

Lee, after hearing the news, told her lawyer Friday that she needed time to  make a decision.

A day later, she signaled that she wanted to continue her battle.

“She’s planning to remain on (the ventilator),” her lawyer said.

Lee’s brother said the family was not surprised.

“She told us she wanted to live,” said Paul Lee, 30. “The truth is told.”

Her condition continues to worsen and her prognosis is not good.  I wish her and her family the best.

  • KrZ

    I spent my life studying how to make people like this whole again. I can’t do that anymore now because I tried to make people see we are all people.

  • hamel

    KrZ: could you rephrase that?

  • Adams-awry

    I’m not sure he could.

  • PeterDownUnder

    Christians and their belief in heaven and hell…we’re just animals like any other species…we put out horses and dogs when they’re in excruciating unrecoverable pain.

    Who are we to stop a person from their own choice. We may have been born without control but everything from then onwards is up to us.

  • Jakgani

    Read about this is the Australian news early yesterday.

    This type of thing happens all the time – sad – but all she can do is blink.

    Thats not much of a life.

    her parents? people on here complain about the low level of Korean language that foreigners attempt to learn whilst living in Korea, but looking at her parents (Church ministers) – they have lived in the big city in the USA for years and still do not speak English.

  • keith

    It’s her life, it should be her choice. The parents are being selfish, it always amazes me how selfish some ‘religious’ people are. I support her right to choose, some people might be happy to live like that, most are probably not. Personally if I was in that situation I’d want them to turn of the machines after I’d said by to my friends and family. Animals can die in dignity, why do some people have a problem with humans having the same right?

  • cm

    keith, are you sure they’re being selfish? They are afraid that their daughter would go to hell if they unplug her. Remember, the daughter still has partial function of the brain allowing her to think. Agree with their religious convictions or not, this is an agonizing decision for the family, however you look at it.

  • WangKon936

    If she can’t live without man made technology and she’s not going to get any better (and is only getting worse), just let her go. I don’t remember anything in the Bible that prohibits letting people die from their wounds after medical care has done everything it can to save them.

    It’s not suicide. It’s just letting death go it’s natural course.

  • cm


    I agree with that. The parents shouldn’t be afraid that this is sin. It’s just letting nature (or hand of God) take its course. If there is a God, he would understand.

  • Adams-awry

    cm, did you just make god’s mind up for him?? Astounding…

  • palladin9479

    Her parents are being selfish. Their putting their own desires and fears above her wish’s and happiness (or lack thereof). One of the core teachings in the Bible is that we as humans have a free will to make choices, for good or bad those choices are ours to make. To continue on life support or not is her choice, they should respect that.

  • virtual wonderer

    even though this post is very old, i figure i will pitch my two cents as someone who went through this process. my sister died in the beginning of this year through cancer.

    something to bear in mind, cancer is brutal physical torture. it seems obvious, but it is another thing entirely when you see it go through its course observing right next to it, 24/7. because, God help you, if it happens to someone you love, you will have no choice, but to stare at this slow moving inevitable maelstrom of fecal matter which you can not stop.

    now, there is another thing to keep in mind. there is a cultural context that westerner might miss concerning a young person’s death. a daughter/son on the death bed may feel a considerable amount of guilt for being “unphilial” and dyng before her parents. of course, physical pain will trump any other feeling…. older people may not even go to the funeral as they themselves might feel guilt.

    that being said, there is something we need to bear in mind about palliative care. If pain and discomfort is managed to a degree and the patient has some degree of dignified life, she may feel anxious, but might decide to stick around. It is when pain/discomfort peaks, she will desire death. I point out this obvious fact, because this woman’s parents would have seen this too. So it becomes hard to make decisions. “is this a momentary lapse in judegement?”. if you are the one who must make this decision, it will be considerably harder than thinking about it abstractly now.

    There is probably a lot more to the story here than a short article.

    My sister was so angry at one point she screamed out, “i have a right to die!”. she said this to my parents. later i told her that if she wants to die, i will give her my full support. and to be honest, i would have done it myself if that was the only way. God knows, I had enough narcotics to do it.

    My sister is a devout christian. i am not. however, the thing about God is that, if I kill her, that wouldnt be suicide for her. You see? People use God as a way to rationalize how they are actually feeling and behaving.

    If they werent Christians they would just say something else to prevent her death.

    news like this shouldnt make it to the news. it is private matter. i am not advocating that a patient in her situation should automatically release her rights to her next of kin. i am simply saying, it is too easy to make assumptions and wrong conclusions based on a short little article.
    dont cast that stone before you know the whole story.

    when i told my sister that i would help her die by my own hands if she wanted it. she said nothing back to me and she made no changes in her facial expression. To this day i feel guilty if she thought that i said this, because i was getting tired of nursing her. i might be overthinking it. but it is also true that i was psychologically fatigued by nursing her.

    there is no easy answers here, and the only path left in a situation like this is to make it as easy for the patient as possible and let her go into that blue yonder, cheering her on.

    about two weeks before her death, my sister and i watched all 70+ episodes of daejangeum. last precious memories. she said shortly after, “soon you will want me to die.”.

    personally, anyone who has not contemplated euthanasia in a situation like this, in my opinion, have never nursed someone 24/7. of course, it will always be more difficult to accept for parents… regardless of ethnicity… and it will be next to impossible sometimes to parse the patients true feelings.

    some stuff to mull over for those who were so far lucky enough not to have gone through this.