Paralyzed Woman Fights Parents for Her Right to Die

Heartbreaking 7

This story is probably everyone's worst nightmare and almost too sad to type. But I think it teaches an important health lesson. Grace Sung Eun Lee was a vibrant 28-year-old bank manager from Manhattan who was living the life all hope to live -- she was happy, healthy, had lots of friends, a good job, was active in her church, and was close to her family, especially her Korean immigrant parents. She was even training for the New York City marathon.

And then one day this young, healthy woman suddenly became ill. An inoperable cancerous tumor was found in her brain. And then she had a seizure and became paralyzed from the neck down. If you are ever tempted to bewail your day because someone blew you off or your kids are annoying you, please read this paragraph again. This woman's entire life was suddenly, irrevocably, and unfairly taken away from her. Is it any wonder she wishes to die?

When Grace came out of her seizure and found herself paralyzed, and with terminal brain cancer to boot, she made it very clear to both her doctors and her family: She wishes to have her tubes pulled and to be allowed to die.

But her parents, understandably, do not want to see her go. For one, both are very religious, her father is a pastor, and they believe that this is suicide and therefore she won't go to heaven.

So Grace's father rushed down to a court and got a temporary stay to keep Grace's tubes from being pulled. Her parents say that Grace is depressed (um, yeah) and heavily medicated and isn't in the frame of mind to make this big of a decision.

They have a point. However, anyone whose quality of life has suddenly plummeted to such a degree with no hope of relief would probably be depressed and on medication.

Doctors and a judge say that Grace is competent and can make her own medical decision, so it's likely that Grace will soon get her wish and be freed from her suffering.

But this just points out the necessity of even young, healthy people appointing a power of attorney who can make medical decisions for you. It's difficult to think about what you might want in the event of such a catastrophic event -- and likely you're not even totally sure how you will feel if anything like this happened.

But discuss it with people close to you and then appoint someone who agrees that, no matter what, your fate would be your choice. This might not even be an obvious person like your mother or husband. Maybe it's a friend you know will listen to you.

My heart goes out to Grace and to her family. This life can be very unfair and very cruel sometimes.

Have you discussed with your family what to do in an event like this?

Image via Mark Hillary/Flickr

general health, illness


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nonmember avatar boxingmomma

This is the reason, at any legal age, you have a living will. They take into account what that person would want to happen if a horrible thing like this happens.

nonmember avatar KJH

I have told everyone in my family that if I were to ever undergo trauma like this, paralyzed, brain dead, etc, I want them to not only let me die, but also to donate all of my organs. If there was nothing I could do for society except lay in a bed hooked up to tubes, I might as well be dead and not a burden on others.

nonmember avatar MRF

I can't help but think of the miracle stories I have heard about, however far and few between and feel that she shouldn't give up hope.

nonmember avatar sarah

Thy who is selfish and wants one to live through them will have things taken away from them. Let go and give her to the lord for one does not live forever but for eternity. Put yourself in her place and see what its like through the eyes of this young lady. Pray for her and her salvation, but the lord will not deny her as his child. It's hard to let anyone go, but there is a known reason for everything. My heart goes out to her parents, but they need to cherish all the moments with her, and stand by her through her sickness and comfort her till death.

nonmember avatar Kaye

Yeah, that's not the parents choice. I'm a parent, I understand, but I would hope I'd never be that selfish. The poor woman is terminal, it's not so much the fact that she'd paralyzed. Not only is she going to die, anyway, but she's going to be made to suffer longer because OTHER PEOPLE say she should? Things like this always bother me. It's her life, not theirs. If she's only getting pain out of it, and it will end in pain, then why should she be made to prolong that pain? As for it being suicide, how's that? Isn't keeping them on the line extending their life longer than it would be naturally? Not that I'm saying anything bad about Euthanasia, as I understand that, too.
I've already told my family what I want in that situation.

Lin Suiter

sounds to me like shes already living in HELL, thats what her father needs to realize:) I like what Sarah said^^


Karen Dowling-Barth

My heart breaks for this girl and her family!!  

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