Four and a half years after they asked that their daughter's respirator be turned off, Joseph and Julia Quinlan sit beside each other on the same couch, answering the same questions they have been answering since the world learned of their request.

Their attorney sits quietly in a corner, prodding here, protecting there, as he has since it all began, doing his best to preserve for them what few shreds of privacy remain as they discuss their lives and their daily visits to their daughter's bedside.

The massive scrapbook of newspaper clippings that used to grace the coffee table -- a distraught father's own prescription for his grief -- has been replaced by the English, Spanish, French and Japanese hard-cover and paperback editions of "Karen Ann: The Quinlans Tell Their Story."

"Does she recognize you?" the young Argentine journalist asks Julia Quinlan.

"There's no recognition," she replies wearily, as she has all these years to the question posed in a half dozen languages by reporters from hundreds of publications.

Joseph and Julia Quinlan visit their daughter twice a day in her room at the county-run Morrisview Nursing Home, even though she remains deep in the coma she entered early on the morning of April 15, 1975.

They still bring flowers, still "talk to her," still celebrate birthdays at her bedside -- the next will be her 26th. But there is no hope. The visits are for their sake, not for hers.

"The holidays are harder," says Joseph Quinlan, who took longer than his wife to decide in the summer of 1975 that Karen should be removed from the respirator that was then thought to be keeping her alive.

"If I go down and she's restless, or has a temperature, it makes it more difficult. Or it may just be my mood," says Julia Quinlan of her visits to her eldest daughter, who now weighs about 70 pounds and lies in the same fetal position she assumed within days of becoming comatose.

"She receives excellent care," the mother tells the Argentine journalist, "just routine care. She's kept clean. They wash her hair. They cut her hair. They cut her fingernails and toenails. And every two hours they change her position."

Had Karen Ann Quinlan died when her respirator was turned off on June 10, 1976, her parents, like the watching world, would have been prepared. Joseph and Julia Quinlan were ready, they said then, for their daughter to be placed "in God's hands." They had gone through their struggle, come to grips with their grief.

But nearly five years of visits have kept Karen Ann very much a part of the Quinlans' daily life. Her death now may well be harder to bear than it would have been in 1976.

"Having her removed from the respirator was a relief," Julia Quinlan said during a recent interview. "Visiting her every day is part of our way of life. When she does die, I'm sure we'll have to adjust to it. But we'll go on, and find the strength."

In the fall of 1975 and early spring of 1976, the world assumed Karen Ann Quinlan would die if her respirator were turned off. That, after all, was what her doctors testified in Morris County Superior Court when they first blocked Joseph Quinlan's attempts to have his daughter "returned to a natural state."

But several neurological experts testified that Karen Ann might well live if her respirator were removed. And if she did live, Dr. Julius Korein testified, it might be for decades. A swimmer and an active young woman before she slipped into the coma, Karen Ann apparently had a strong heart, Korein testified.

And when the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its landmark decision that, in a truly hopeless case, the guardian of a comatose individual could order that life-sustaining equipment be disconnected, Karen Ann Quinlan indeed went right on living.

Fed by a tube through her nose, and given antibiotics to ward off infection, she is much the same as she was when representatives of the world's media camped outside the nursing home and her parents' modest ranch house here in Landing.

The Quinlans know that Karen Ann is unaware of their visits, but they say that "her moods change. Some days her eyes move and roam around the room," said Joseph Quinlan, a quiet man whose emotions gnaw at his stomach. "Other days, when she's more relaxed, if you're standing in front of her, it looks like she's staring right at you."

Karen Ann's earlier life has passed her by. At first her friends kept in touch with her parents, and came to visit her in the hospital, and then the nursing home. Her housemates on the night she passed out, after mixing small doses of Librium and Valium with alcohol, remained part of the family's scene.

But now, all that has changed. "The majority of her friends have moved away," said Julia Quinlan. "Most of them have married and left the area."

When most of the publicity surrounding the case died down, the Quinlans used the funds received from their book and its subsidiary rights to establish the Karen Ann Quinlan Foundation, which is now working to launch a home care program for the terminally ill, the Karen Ann Quinlan Center of Hope.

The Quinlans say their interest in establishing such a program began "when we were trying to find a place for Karen and couldn't find any place in the entire state of New Jersey."

Eventually, Morrisview agreed to take Karen, but the Quinlans felt a home care program was needed. "The whole concept," said Julia Quinlan, is "not to teach the patient how to die, but how to live for the remainder of his life."