Maria Korp

Maria Korp (14 January 1955 - 5 August 2005)[1] was an Australian woman reported missing for four days and later found, barely alive, in the boot of her car on 13 February 2005.[2] She spent a short time in a coma before emerging into a state of post coma unresponsiveness. She became the centre of a controversy in Australia during 2005. Depending upon their viewpoint, persons characterised the controversy as being about euthanasia or about human rights and protecting people with disabilities. On 26 July 2005 Victoria's Public Advocate, Julian Gardner, announced that the feeding tube to Maria Korp would cease to be used for providing artificial nutrition and hydration, that palliative care would be implemented and that she was expected to die within 7–14 days. Korp died on 5 August 2005.

Her husband's mistress, Tania Herman, pleaded guilty on 8 June 2005 to attempted murder, and was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment; Husband Joe Korp, also charged with her attempted murder, committed suicide on the day of her funeral.

Contents

Missing person

Maria Korp
Joe Korp

The brother of Korp's husband, Gust Korp had earlier reported his concerns about Maria's safety to police on 9 February 2005.[3] Joe stated he last saw his wife at their suburban Mickleham home at approximately 6.30am on that day. Korp was found unconscious, in the boot of her car near the Shrine Of Remembrance in Dallas Brooks Drive, Melbourne on 13 February 2005.[2] She was taken to nearby Alfred Hospital, and was found to have suffered oxygen starvation to the brain, head injuries and severe dehydration. She went into a medically induced coma, and was placed on life support.[4]

On 16 February 2005 police charged Joe Korp, 47, and his mistress Tania Herman, 38, with the attempted murder of Maria Korp, conspiracy to murder, and intentionally causing serious injury. Both appeared the following day in Melbourne Magistrates Court and were remanded in custody. On 28 April 2005, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal appointed Victoria's Public Advocate, Julian Gardner as Mrs Korp's legal guardian.

Herman pleaded guilty on 8 June 2005 to the attempted murder of Maria Korp, this charge was never upgraded to murder when Maria subsequently died, and was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of nine years.[5] Korp pleaded not guilty on all charges and was later released on bail on 9 June, and committed to stand trial.

On 26 July 2005, Gardner announced that medical treatment for Maria Korp in the form of artificial nutrition and hydration would cease, that palliative care treatment would be provided and that she was expected to die within one to two weeks. Her condition had been declining, and medical staff could no longer stabilise her condition. "The treating team at the Alfred Hospital has advised me that her condition is now terminal", Gardner said.[6]

A further charge of murder had been expected to be laid against her husband, who applied for bail modification so that he could visit his dying wife in hospital.[7] The Public Advocate, who had authority to determine access to Maria Korp approved a visit supervised by his staff and police. Korp died at 2am on 5 August 2005.

Maria Korp's funeral mass was held on Friday, 12 August 2005 almost six months to the day after she was found. In the hours following the service, Joe Korp was found dead in a garage at his own home with a noose around his neck. News reports indicated that he had been drinking, and was on the phone to his solicitor at the time.[8]

Euthanasia controversy

Anti-euthanasia campaigners threatened legal action in an attempt to save the life of Maria Korp in August, 2005. They held peaceful protests outside Melbourne's Alfred Hospital to demonstrate against the "inhumane" decision by the Public Advocate, Julian Gardner, to stop artificially feeding her.

Maria Korp's artificial nutrition and hydration was ceased on 27 July on the decision of the Tribunal-appointed legal guardian, Mr Gardner, who stated that all of the doctors who had examined her (including a specialist independent of the hospital arranged by the Public Advocate) had advised that further treatment other than palliative care was futile and that she had no prospects of recovery. He concluded on the basis of the medical evidence and on the basis of evidence of her beliefs and values that continued treatment was not in her best interests.[9]

An appeal against Mr Gardner's appointment — as a legal means of challenging his decision — as Maria Korp's guardian was reportedly considered by opponents of his decision but no appeal was made. The protest group's spokesperson, Mrs Tighe, reported to the media that they would be willing to give anything a try in order to stop her from dying from starvation. Maria Korp's husband Joe had publicly stated through his lawyers that he would fight in the courts any attempt to withdraw medical treatment. It was for that reason that the hospital sought the appointment of a guardian. It was only after the Public Advocate approved his visit to Maria that he changed his mind. Her daughter Laura De Gois indicated that she did not oppose Mr Gardner's decision.

According an ABC radio report,[10] Julian Gardner, the public advocate who made the decision, explained that they talked over a period of months to people who knew her well, including her priest, to find out what she believed, and took advice from "an expert Catholic ethicist". He was provided with details of the medical evidence and asked to consider whether, given that evidence of her medical condition, withdrawal of treatment other than palliative care would be in accordance with the statement on this issue by the former Pope in April 2004. He concluded that it would be. Many of her family members were against the cessation of life support. their reasons wrere not publicly stated other than to claim that the doctors were wrong and that Maria was not dying. This was the basis of the comments by a family member in Portugal. It is only possible to speculate whether family members’ opposition was to avoid Joe being charged with murder or whether they saw withdrawal of life support as euthanasia which is considered a sin in the Roman Catholic Church.

The controversy was heightened by the fact that it occurred at the end of the internationally publicised controversy about Terri Schiavo, an American woman in a vegetative state (for a decade or more longer than Maria Korp) whose artificial treatment and hydration was ceased following a decision by her husband that was made after numerous court cases which ultimately confirmed his authority to do so. Although the Public Advocate was at pains to state that the actions did not amount to euthanasia (he noted that medical treatment decisions such as this had been authorised by the Supreme Court in Gardner re BWV [2003] VSC 173 and that euthanasia was unlawful) the raw nerve that the case touched among many people did not stop some of those who either supported or opposed euthanasia characterising it as such.

References

  1. ^ date of birth provided by Crawford, Carly "the Maria Korp Case" Harper Collins, 2006 page 21
  2. ^ a b "Missing woman found alive in car boot". Sydney Morning Herald. 14 February 2005. http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Missing-woman-found-alive-in-car-boot/2005/02/13/1108229856716.html. 
  3. ^ Crawford, Carly "the Maria Korp Case" Harper Collins 2006 page 16
  4. ^ Silvester, John; Milovanovic, Selma (18 February 2006). "Boot victim may never testify". The Age (Melbourne). http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Boot-victim-may-never-testify/2005/02/17/1108609346744.html. 
  5. ^ "R v Herman VSC 234". Supreme Court of Victoria. 1 July 2005. http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/disp.pl/au/cases/vic/VSC/2005/234.html?query=herman. 
  6. ^ "Accused husband asks to visit dying wife". ABC News. 27 July 2005. http://www.abc.net.au/news/items/200507/1423063.htm. 
  7. ^ "Key dates in Maria Korp saga". Sydney Morning Herald. 5 August 2005. http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/key-dates-in-maria-korp-saga/2005/08/05/1123125881966.html. 
  8. ^ "Joe Korp's death may have been accident". The Age (Melbourne). 27 May 2006. http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Joe-Korps-death-may-have-been-accident/2006/05/27/1148524917437.html. 
  9. ^ Crawford, Carly "the Maria Korp Case" Harper Collins 2006 page 266
  10. ^ Bunworth, Mick (26 July 2005). "Korp's feeding tube to be removed" (transcript). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2005/s1422997.htm. 

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