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Judge Leaves Alzheimer’s Patient in Son’s Custody

January 23, 1996

PETOSKEY, Mich. (AP) _ An Alzheimer’s patient should stay with the son who wants him to live, rather than with other family members may try to take him to see assisted suicide advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a judge ruled today.

Gerald Klooster’s son Chip earlier won temporary custody of his father, a retired physician, after learning family members had contacted Kevorkian. Today, Emmet County Probate Judge Fred Mulhauser continued that temporary custody order indefinitely.

The judge said that if he had ruled otherwise, he was not convinced that the other four children of Gerald and Ruth Klooster would stand up to their mother and keep her from seeking Kevorkian’s help for their 69-year-old father. The father has been found to be mentally incompetent.

``Ruth Klooster was very close to accomplishing her goal,″ the judge said, referring to assisted suicide. ``Ruth has given no assurance that she will desist.″

Some experts have called the case the first in the nation in which a person has gone to court to thwart the assisted suicide of a family member.

Kevorkian, a retired pathologist, has been present at 26 deaths as part of his crusade for physician-assisted suicide as an option for the hopelessly ill. He has not commented on the Klooster case, but his lawyer has said he would not take the case of anyone whose family members are divided on the issue of suicide and whose mental competency is in question.

Mrs. Klooster has said that after her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago, he occasionally spoke with her about committing suicide to spare his family the sight of him losing his mind and dignity. She said she and her husband had contacted Kevorkian but did not schedule a meeting with him.

She did not testify in Petoskey, but filed a statement with the court saying she had ``no intention of either ending Jerry’s life or of helping him to end his life.″

Mulhauser said again today, as he has in the past, that he wanted the family members to try to settle the dispute among themselves.

``There’s probably no way to measure the damage that’s been done,″ he said Monday. ``And that is truly regrettable.″

Gerald Klooster was sitting behind Chip Klooster when Mulhauser ruled. He showed no reaction.

``I’m just pleased for my father’s safety,″ Chip Klooster said after the ruling was made.

The son, whose real name is Gerald Klooster II, lives in Petoskey, but the other family members live in California. Chip brought his father to Petoskey in November, saying he feared for his life.

During a hearing Monday, Scott Eckhold, the attorney appointed to represent Klooster’s interests, recommended that Klooster remain in Michigan for now.

Eckhold said he was not convinced Klooster would be safe in California because Mrs. Klooster might still want him to commit suicide. He said the couple’s four adult children who live in California seem too trusting of Ruth, whom witnesses repeatedly described as domineering and manipulative.

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