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Judge Dismisses Restraining Order in Right-To-Die Case

January 8, 1991

MOUNT VERNON, Mo. (AP) _ A judge on Monday dismissed a court order that temporarily prevented the father of a brain-damaged patient from moving her to a state where her feeding tube could be removed with less legal strife.

Pete Busalacchi says his 20-year-old daughter, Christine, who has spent 3 1/2 years in a vegetative state at the hospital where Nancy Cruzan was allowed to die after a court fight, should be allowed to die. But hospital officials contend that Ms. Busalacchi has mental functions and responds to commands.

Lawrence County Associate Circuit Judge Scott Sifferman ruled that a probate court in St. Louis County had jurisdiction in the case.

State Health Department spokesman Mark Roebuck said the court was expected to hold a hearing in the next couple of days to determine if Ms. Busalacchi may be transferred to Minnesota.

The Missouri Department of Health had obtained a 10-day temporary restraining order on Dec. 29 preventing Busalacchi from moving his daughter from Missouri Rehabilitation Center to a hospital in Minneapolis where her feeding tube likely would be removed.

Busalacchi maintained his daughter was in an irreversible vegetative condition like Ms. Cruzan, whose feeding tube had been removed 12 days before she died on Dec. 26. Ms. Cruzan became a focus of national debate and a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the right to die.

Both young women suffered severe brain damage in car crashes. Their parents contended there was no sign of recognition, pain or emotion in either patient. And neither left written instructions about being kept alive in case of debilitating illness or injury.

The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling in its first right-to-die case, said June 25 that Missouri could require ″clear and convincing″ evidence that Ms. Cruzan, 33, would not want to be kept alive in her vegetative state.

Her relatives returned to state court with three witnesses whose testimony led to a judge’s permission to remove Ms. Cruzan’s feeding tube on Dec. 14.

Busalacchi said he wants his daughter evaluated by Dr. Ronald Cranford, a neurologist at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Cranford, who favors euthanasia in cases like Ms. Cruzan’s where brain damage is irreversible, said there was only a ″one in a billion″ chance that a CAT brain scan would find that Ms. Busalacchi is not in a vegetative state.

″I don’t feel that my daughter has been alive for a long, long time,″ Busalacchi said Monday. ″It’s time that all this stuff ends.″

Don Lamkins, director of the Missouri Rehabilitation Center, said in an affidavit that Ms. Busalacchi is ″cognitive of her surroundings and does have significant mental functions.″

″Her life should not be terminated,″ said Lamkins, who also opposed allowing Ms. Cruzan to die.