Two brothers are battling in a Nassau court over the fate of their seriously ill mother, each contending she has expressed a different wish about whether to continue her hospital care.
“It’s my mother’s will to live and I think we’re all entitled to live out our lives,” Edward Lester, 62, told reporters before squaring off against his younger brother Kyle Lester Monday in state Supreme Court in Mineola.
“We’ve asked her repeatedly, every time I go there, 'Do you want to live?’ and she agrees that she does," said Edward Lester. His mother, 91, is in Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, where she has been hospitalized since early October with respiratory and circulation problems.
In a Nov. 7 video obtained by the New York Post, Arline Lester mouths the words “I want to live."
Edward Lester spoke to reporters before Judge Julianne Capetola issued a gag order Monday barring the brothers, as well as their lawyers and witnesses, from speaking publicly about the case. The brothers and their attorneys declined to talk to reporters after the hearing in front of Capetola Monday.
Capetola also sealed all documents related to the case, but not before the New York Post reported that Kyle Lester, 58, accused his brother in court papers of keeping their mother alive against her will so Edward Lester can continue to collect the $5,400 Arline receives every month in Social Security and pension benefits.
“The argument doesn’t even make sense, because at the end of the day I stand to lose my whole inheritance of $500,000 by keeping her alive,” Edward Lester said before the hearing.
Kyle Lester, of Dix Hills, asked the court to declare him his mother’s sole guardian and has asked the hospital to take her off a ventilator and feeding tubes, the Post reported. Arline Lester signed a living will in 1999 in which she asked to be taken off life support if she became seriously ill, the Post said. In November, the longtime New York City public school math teacher signed a new living will that directed doctors to continue to prolong her life as long as possible, said the Post, which also reported that a hospital psychiatrist evaluation found that Arline Lester was mentally competent.
Edward told reporters before Monday’s hearing that his mother’s condition is expected to improve.
“You can have respiratory failure and then improve and be back to normal,” he said. “You can have a feeding tube and then improve and be back to normal ... She can get better,” he said.
Edward Lester said his brother’s claim that he is keeping his mother alive to keep her retirement benefits and her home is ludicrous. He said the legal bills to keep his mother alive could hit as much as $100,000 and nursing home costs, if Arline does leave the hospital, will be $20,000 a month.
“If my mother lives another month, another year, it is bound to cost me $350,000,” Edward Lester said.
Edward Lester said his relationship with Kyle is over, despite the pain they share as their mother’s health declines. “He blocked my calls. He blocked my emails. He refused to talk to me,” he said.