Judge blocks removal of comatose Mo. patient

December 31, 1990|By ASSOCAITED PRESS

MOUNT VERNON, Mo. (AP) -- The director of the hospital where Nancy Cruzan died won a court order against the father of another patient who wants to remove his brain-damaged daughter's feeding tube.

Pete Busalacchi wants to transfer his 20-year-old daughter, Christine, from the Missouri Rehabilitation Center to Minnesota, where she could die under a state provision that recognizes ethical decisions by doctors.

The hospital's director fought the move, claiming that Busalacchi has a better chance of recovering than Cruzan did.

Cruzan died at the Missouri hospital Dec. 26 after her parents won a landmark court battle to have her feeding tube disconnected.

Pro-life advocates predicted a "tidal wave" of euthanasia cases after her death.

Since a 1987 car accident in St. Louis, Busalacchi has been in a vegetative state similar to that of Cruzan, the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court's first right-to-die ruling.

"I really sometimes feel with Chris that the light's on but no one's home," Busalacchi said yesterday. "I believe my daughter is dead, and all I have left in the hospital is a machine."

Judge Scott Sifferman of Lawrence County Court issued a temporary restraining order Saturday after the center's director, Don Lamkins, said there is "scientific and observational evidence" that Busalacchi is aware of her surroundings.

Lamkins said the 10-day restraining order would allow doctors to examine her further. Sifferman scheduled a Jan. 8 hearing to review the doctors' findings.

Cruzan's parents, Joe and Joyce Cruzan, fought a three-year legal battle to have their daughter's feeding tube disconnected.

The Supreme Court ruled last June that Nancy Cruzan, severely brain damaged in a 1983 car accident, could be allowed to die if there was "clear and convincing" evidence she would want to.

Busalacchi said he was encouraged yesterday by a telephone call from Joe Cruzan, who "offered to help in any way he could."

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