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New York

• Do family members have a legal right to order a hospital to stop using artificial means to sustain the life of a loved one? This controversial issue was confronted by the New York Court of Appeals (the highest state court in New York) in a significant ruling. The patient—a 77-year-old widow with two children—had suffered a series of strokes that caused brain damage and rendered her unable to care for herself. For several months, she remained at home and was cared for by her daughters (both of whom were nurses). Eventually, however, the daughters were no longer able to care for their mother, and she was transferred to a geriatric facility where her condition worsened. When the mother became "unresponsive and stuporous," she was transferred to a hospital, where it was determined that she had lost her "gag reflex," which made if impossible for her to swallow food or liquids ...

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  • May 1, 1989