Dad ends guardian suit in right-to-die case

Sungeun Grace Lee has terminal brain cancer and her doctors at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset say she has repeatedly expressed desire to be removed from the ventilator, which would end her life. Her parents, Man Ho and Jin Ah Lee, devout Christians, have gone to court to seek a restraining order. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Oct. 4, 2012)

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The legal battle over a terminally ill Queens woman's right to die ended in a Nassau courtroom Tuesday when her father withdrew his petition to become her legal guardian, which would have allowed him to make medical decisions for her.

Man Ho Lee agreed to do so in large part because his daughter, Sungeun Grace Lee, 28, no longer says she wants to be removed from the ventilator that is keeping her alive.

Earlier, Grace Lee had said she wanted to end life support, a decision that her deeply religious parents opposed so vigorously that they sought a restraining order to stop it.

But after local and appellate judges declined their petition for the restraining order, saying the daughter is competent to make her own medical decisions, the former bank manager did a turnaround and decided to abide by her parents' wishes.

"She said, 'Here, Mom and Dad, let me give you this gift: Now that I am making decisions myself, I am going to do what you prefer and keep the ventilator and the feeding tube in," said David Smith, of Garden City, a court-appointed lawyer for Grace Lee.

Although the courts have ruled that Grace Lee is competent to make her own legal decisions now, her father, Man Ho Lee, pastor of Antioch Missionary Church in Flushing, Queens, has been designated her health care proxy, meaning that he will make decisions for her should she become incompetent.

Grace Lee, of Douglaston, Queens, was diagnosed with a tumor on her brain stem last year. After suffering seizures, she was rushed to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset on Sept. 3. Paralyzed from the neck down, she was hooked up to a machine that breathes for her.

Although Man Ho Lee and other family members have said they believe Grace Lee's health is improving, Smith has been clear that she has no more than two months left to live.

"I hope all your prayers for Grace's recovery are granted," Judge Thomas Phelan told Man Ho Lee Tuesday in a Mineola courtroom.

Lawyers for Grace Lee and her parents both said they are exploring the possibility of transferring her from the hospital to another facility such as a nursing home. However, they say, the places that provide the services she needs are few, and they have not yet found a suitable alternative.

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