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Douglaston woman who fought to be taken off life support dies

Family members of Grace Lee, who died Sunday, are mourning nearly five months after a legal battle centered around her right to die by request.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The terminally ill quadriplegic woman who fought with family over her right to be taken off of life support died Sunday, her family said.

According to her parents, Grace Sung Eun Lee, 28, died when the ventilator keeping her alive stopped working properly over the weekend. She had spent her last months at her childhood home in Douglaston with father Manho Lee and mother Jin Ah Lee, they said.

The former Manhattan banker became paralyzed in September due to the growth of an inoperable brain tumor and made headlines in the fall when she then begged doctors at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island to kill her by removing her breathing tube, lawyer David Smith told TimesLedger Newspapers.

The move sparked controversy as her parents disagreed with her decision and obtained a restraining order, preventing the hospital from turning off her support system, Smith said.

After a legal battle, a judge granted Lee the right to determine her own fate, but she instead decided against death, her lawyer said. Her parents contended religious tradition conflicted with Lee’s request to die, which she ultimately decided against.

She also gave permission to allow her parents to be custodians of her fate should she ever lose consciousness or become unable to make her own decisions, Smith said, in the months before her death.

The illness started in September while she was training for the New York Marathon and suddenly became unable to move or breathe on her own. According to Smith, doctors gave Lee less than two weeks to live back in October.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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