LAS VEGAS, OCT. 4 -- A 31-year-old quadriplegic who went to court seeking the right to end his life because he feared outliving his terminally ill father died today after being sedated and disconnected from his respirator.
Kenneth Bergstedt, paralyzed from the neck down since a 1969 swimming accident at age 10, ended his life before the Nevada Supreme Court acted on his request to sanction his actions.
"He just wanted to go," said his father, Robert Bergstedt. The Las Vegas Sun quoted the father as saying in an interview that he gave his son Seconal and Valium and detached the respirator from his trachea.
The elder Bergstedt, an amputee who last month was diagnosed as suffering from terminal lung cancer, has taken care of his son since his wife died of lung cancer in 1979.
A lower court had ruled in June that Kenneth Bergstedt had the right to end his life but asked him to postpone his action until the state Supreme Court could rule on the matter and establish a legal precedent.
Robert Bergstedt told the Las Vegas Sun that his son said late Wednesday he could no longer wait for the high court's decision.
Bergstedt's attorney, Jack Cherry, said the lower court order had not been stayed or modified and was still in effect. "I have a court order saying anyone that helps Kenneth in doing this is not guilty of a crime," Cherry said.
Bergstedt said earlier that he did not want to see his son die but understood his reasons for wanting to end his life. "Let's face it. He's been in jail for 21 years, and I've been his keeper," Robert Bergstedt said.
In asking District Judge Donald Mosley to allow him to end his life without legal sanctions against anyone who helped, Kenneth Bergstedt said he feared his father would die and he would be left alone.