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Judge Rules in Favor of Father in Right-to-Die Case

November 30, 1991

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) _ A judge has ruled in favor of a father who wants to remove a feeding tube from his severely brain-damaged daughter.

Probate Judge Louis Kohn found that 21-year-old Christine Busalacchi is in a persistent vegetative state and isn’t responding to treatment.

He said her father, Pete Busalacchi, has the right to make the decision to remove the feeding tube.

″I think he has the right, the duty, the responsibility to do what’s best for this child,″ Kohn said. ″He’s faced with a terrible, terrible dilemma.″

Busalacchi has been battling the Missouri Health Department over moving his daughter to Minnesota so the tube can be removed.

He argued that she had no hope of recovering from car wreck injuries four years ago. The state argued that she was improving.

In December, Kohn gave Busalacchi permission to transfer his daughter from a Missouri hospital to one in Minnesota, but the Health Department blocked the move with an appeal. The Missouri Supreme Court agreed to consider the case.

Missouri’s laws are among the most restrictive in the nation on family rights in right-to-die cases. Minnesota allows more leeway.

The state Supreme Court ordered the hearing this week before Kohn to gather more evidence on Ms. Busalacchi’s condition.

Kohn will send his findings and other recommendations to the state’s highest court for a final decision in the case. It was unclear when that would be.

Busalacchi had no comment on the decision. However, his attorney, William Colby, said the family was pleased.

The state’s lead attorney, Joanne Leykham, said the state was disappointed, but planned to offer some additional information for Kohn to review next week.

Kohn criticized evidence the state presented to show that Ms. Busalacchi was able to smile, laugh, eat and recognize people. He said it was misleading.

″I think she did do those things, but I think (they) were strictly reflexive,″ he said in his ruling at the end of the weeklong hearing.

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