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Anger Still Marks Right-to-Die Case

February 2, 1999

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Although Michele Finn won the battle to end life support for her severely brain-damaged husband, she and her children lost something in the process _ a relationship with his family.

Four months since Hugh Finn died after his feeding tube was removed, the bitterness and anger that marked the case still lingers.

Most of his family angrily maintains Hugh’s death was the euthanasia of a healthy man. And Mrs. Finn no longer speaks to her sister, who sided with Finn’s parents during the legal battles.

``I think that the relationship between Michele and I is over,″ Elaine Glazier, Mrs. Finn’s sister, said last week. ``We’re hoping that when the children become of age, we’ll re-establish contact and they’ll understand what we tried to do.″

Finn, a former Louisville, Ky., television news anchor, was critically injured in a March 1995 car accident. His doctors said he was in a ``persistent vegetative state″ _ unable to think, walk, talk or control his body.

In June 1998, Mrs. Finn told her husband’s family that she planned to let him die. Under Virginia law, food and water may be withheld from people who are permanently vegetative.

Finn’s family questioned Hugh’s diagnosis, and Finn’s brother, John Finn, unsuccessfully filed suit to stop the removal of the feeding tube.

Gov. Jim Gilmore’s emergency motion to stop the removal also was rejected.

The emotional toll the court fight had on the family took center stage in the Virginia state Senate last week, during a hearing in which the panel approved reimbursing Mrs. Finn $48,000 for the state’s effort to keep Finn alive.

Through tears, Mrs. Finn testified about an article her daughter read in which her father-in-law, Thomas Finn Sr., was quoted as saying her decision to let Hugh die was ``murder.″

``I had to let my oldest daughter, who was almost 13, know how bad the situation had become,″ Mrs. Finn said, her voice breaking. ``I let her read the article. Her only comment was, `How could Grandpa say such a thing?‴

``My children not only have lost their father, they’ve lost most of their extended family,″ she said.

The animosity between the families was exacerbated by those who counseled Hugh’s family to keep fighting Michele’s decision, said Karen Finn, Hugh’s sister and the one blood relative who supported Michele.

The anger has not subsided. Ms. Glazier traveled from her Pennsylvania home to Richmond last week to tell legislators that Mrs. Finn doesn’t deserve to be reimbursed for her legal costs.

While Ms. Glazier said her brother in-law was ``cruelly starved to death,″ Mrs. Finn sat outside the hearing room weeping.

``I resent the fact that my sister insinuates that I did not have the best interest of Hugh in mind,″ Ms. Glazier said.

For now, Karen Finn said, the two sides undoubtedly will remain apart.

``It’s a long process, and we all have to heal,″ she said. ``Michele and Keeley and Bridget are all we have left of Hugh. I love being involved in their life. ... I hope that can happen for the rest of my family.″

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