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'Vegetable' 6 Years, Young Wife Ordered Unplugged

April 23, 1986|United Press International

MORRISTOWN, N.J. — A judge today gave permission for a man to order removal of a feeding tube that has kept his severely brain-damaged wife alive since 1980 in a "vegetative state."

Morris County Superior Judge Arnold Stein said the tube may be removed from Nancy Ellen Jobes, 31, so she may be allowed to die. The woman suffered brain damage during a 1980 operation to remove a dead fetus after she was injured in a car crash.

If upheld on appeal, the decision would break new ground in right-to-die law, an issue that first came to national attention in the Karen Ann Quinlan case a decade ago.

In the latest case, John H. Jobes III of Boonton, N.J., and his wife's parents, Robert and Eleanor Laird, filed suit seeking permission to disconnect the feeding tube. The nursing home in which she is a patient opposed the request.

John Jobes, who wiped a tear from his eye as he read the judge's ruling, said he is "very happy." His mother-in-law said, "It's the first step in letting Nancy out of this world."

John Jobes testified during the trial that he can no longer stand to visit his wife in the nursing home because "there is no one there."

His wife is not comatose and is neither elderly, terminally ill nor supported by a respirator, all criteria that have been cited as reasons for withdrawing life support in previous right-to-die cases.

But Judge Stein said removal of a respirator, as in the Quinlan case, or of a feeding tube amounts to the same thing.

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