updated 12/9/2004 3:11:52 PM ET 2004-12-09T20:11:52

A man whose living will led a hospital to seek permission from a judge to remove his life support over the objections of his wife died after doctors removed his ventilator.

Hanford L. Pinette, 73, stopped breathing less than two hours after doctors removed the mechanical breathing apparatus at Lucerne Hospital on Wednesday, said his wife, Alice.

“He was trying to breathe on his own,” said Alice Pinette, who had challenged the hospital’s attempts to exercise her husband’s living will. “These people, they actually killed the man.”

Orlando Regional Healthcare System Inc. said the military veteran was in a terminal state, could not make decisions for himself and was unlikely to recover. He was being kept alive by a ventilator, a dialysis machine and medication.

The hospital maintained that Pinette’s condition met the terms of his living will, which Hanford Pinette signed in 1988. It stated that death would be preferable if faced with a terminal illness and incapacity.

Hospital officials said they had no choice but to follow his wishes.

Pinette had also given his wife durable power of attorney over his affairs in 1998, including decisions on health care. During the dispute, Alice Pinette insisted her husband could communicate and wanted to live.

In November, Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Kirkwood ruled that the living will must be upheld or those with power of attorney could impose their wishes on the incapacitated.

David Evans, the hospital’s attorney, said the hospital told Alice Pinette on Sunday it was planning to remove the ventilator on Wednesday. Evans told her attorney the next day.

No one gave any indication that the family planned to appeal Kirkwood’s ruling, he said.

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