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Tube Reinserted in Right-to-Die Patient

June 4, 1987

VALHALLA, N.Y. (AP) _ A feeding tube of a comatose man was reconnected after it inadvertently fell out despite a court ruling directing the hospital to assist the man’s family in letting him die, officials said Thursday.

″The only thing we want to do now is get him out of the hospital,″ said Judith Livingston, the attorney for the man’s family. ″The damage has been done, despite a clear warning that without consent, there could be no forced feeding.″

Daniel Delio, 34, has been in a vegetative state for more than a year since his heart stopped for a time during minor surgery at St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains.

He was transferred to the Westchester County Medical Center where doctors determined Delio would probably never recover.

A former marathon runner and an exercise physiologist at the time of his death, Delio had often voiced his feelings that he opposed the artificial sustaining of life, Ms. Livingston said.

Unlike other right-to-die cases, Delio breathes on his own, but since he cannot swallow, he receives vital life-sustaining nutrients through the feeding tube.

In an effort to acquiesce to his wishes, his wife, Julianne, asked the medical center to disconnect the tube and when the hospital refused, went to court.

Justice Anthony Cerrato refused to grant her wish, citing lack of legal precedent and law.

On Monday, a state appeals court ordered the medical center to either disconnect the tube or assist the family in finding a facility which will or help the family bring Delio home to die.

The court said an individual had the right to refuse treatment ″ and live out his life in dignity and peace.″

The tube fell out Wednesday and Delio’s mother, Margherita, prevented doctors from doing anything more than inserting a stint, or a tube that would keep the abdominal passage open.

Ms. Livingston said she had planned to seek a restraining order Thursday, since hospital officials had assured Julianne Delio, who left the hospital at 10 p.m. Wednesday, that they would not reinsert the tube until a court proceeding.

Ms. Livingston charged that doctors ″snuck into Danny’s room like thieves in the night after Julianne went home, after they promised her they wouldn’t do it, and between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., put the tube back in.″

Ms. Livingston said the hospital violated the order of the appellate court, even though it had been warned by her not to reinsert the tube.

″They made a promise to my client,″ Ms. Livingston said. ″It was her birthday, too.″ Julianne Delio turned 33 Wednesday.

On Thursday, Delio’s mother and wife continued their vigil at his bedside, but declined to talk to reporters at the hospital.

While the hospital refuses to discuss the feeding tube incident or its circumstances, it is prepared to assist the family in transferring Delio to another facility or home, said hospital spokesman James Patrick.

The court order did not specifically order the hospital to remove the tube, he said, and, since the hospital was considering an appeal ″for clarification, the policy of the hospital is to continue to treat patients in accordance with the standards of medicine.″

A decision on an appeal should be made by next week, he said.

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