Son Wins Custody of Father to Prevent Suicide

<i> From Associated Press</i>

A man trying to keep his Alzheimer’s-stricken father away from Dr. Jack Kevorkian won custody of the ailing 69-year-old in a court battle against his own mother.

Probate Judge Fred Mulhauser ruled in favor of Chip Klooster, who feared his mother and siblings were arranging for his father, Gerald Klooster, to kill himself.

“Chip Klooster was apparently the only person who felt bold enough to act,” the judge said. “Through his efforts, it is not too dramatic to say that his father’s life may have been spared.”


Legal experts said it may be the first time someone has gone to court to prevent an assisted suicide by a relative.

Mulhauser ruled that returning Gerald Klooster to his home in Castro Valley, Calif., near San Francisco would be dangerous because his wife, Ruth, could pursue her “determined plan” to persuade him to kill himself. The judge extended a temporary order that gave custody of the elderly man to Chip Klooster.

The judge rejected a request by Gerald Klooster’s daughter, Kristin Hamstra, to return her father to California, where she would act as his conservator.

Gerald Klooster sat quietly through the hearing and showed no reaction. He has been described as mentally incompetent, but his attorney, Scott Eckhold, said the man has some sense that the family is fighting over him.

The elder Klooster retired as an obstetrician and gynecologist after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six years ago.

Chip Klooster said he learned last summer that his mother had joined the Hemlock Society, which supports physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill people who want it, and that she had spoken with Kevorkian, who supports physician-assisted suicides.


In November, Chip Klooster went to Florida, where his parents were visiting friends, distracted his mother with a phone call and spirited his father away.

Testimony showed Ruth Klooster had reserved tickets for her and her husband to fly to Detroit in November and had booked a room in a motel near Kevorkian’s home. Also, friends of the Kloosters testified she had sought their help to get pills that could be used for a suicide.

Last month, Ruth Klooster told an Alameda County, Calif., court that her husband occasionally spoke of committing suicide when his illness reached the advanced stages.

During five days of testimony in Petoskey, Chip Klooster’s siblings accused him of kidnapping their father, criticized him for dragging a family matter into court and contended their father should live with Hamstra.

They also said the opportunity for their father to commit suicide had passed because Kevorkian will not help anyone he judges mentally incompetent.

Kevorkian’s lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger, said last week that Kevorkian had talked to the Kloosters but would not have gotten involved in their case.