Mother shoots daughter in old folks' home row

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The Independent Online
WHEN GEORGETTE Smith went to see her 68-year-old mother, stricken with emphysema and serious injuries received in a car crash, she was braced for an argument. With her boyfriend in tow for moral support, she confronted the older woman: it was time to move her out of her apartment and into a home.

What ensued on that March afternoon no one could have foreseen. As Georgette, 42, reached for the application papers, her mother, Shirley Egan, grabbed a gun and shot her daughter in the neck.

Now Ms Smith, with a severed spine and paralysed from the neck down, has made another decision that could mean death for them both. From her bed in a Florida hospital, Ms Smith has asked the courts to authorise doctors to remove the ventilator tube that keeps her breathing. If her wish is granted, she will die in minutes. Her mother would almost certainly face charges of first-degree murder.

"All I can do is wink my eyes and wiggle my nose, wiggle my tongue," Ms Smith, who can talk with difficulty, said in a sworn submission. "I cannot breathe on my own. God, don't leave me this way ... I can't live like this ... I should be able to make the choice."

Her fate is in the hands of a circuit judge, Richard Conrad, who is expected to announce his decision in a few days. He is likely to agree; Florida law allows patients who are mentally competent to decline life-prolonging treatments.

In the event of a ruling in Ms Smith's favour, there would be some delay before the removal of the ventilator to allow prosecutors to take testimony from her to prepare the case against her mother. Although Florida has capital punishment, it is far from certain prosecutors would seek a death sentence.

What seems clear is that Ms Smith is not seeking to die out of any desire for revenge. She has forgiven her mother, who, according to the boyfriend, had been acting irrationally since her car accident.