This tightly researched documentary opens with the tragic auto accident in which Ms. Kowalski is rendered comatose. During the early period of her prolonged hospitalization, tensions arise between Kowalski's domestic partner and the patient's parents, leading to a highly contentious battle for the rights not only to visit, but also to assume long term care responsibilities. As the patient regains consciousness and limited physical and cognitive skills, the drama moves from the hospital and nursing care facility to the courtroom.

For ten years, the battle for custody and the ultimate care of Ms. Kowalski rages. Drawing on trial transcripts, medical records, newspaper archives, and personal interviews, Casey Charles's work brings to life emotions and personalities that dominated the courtroom dramas and illuminates the highly contested judgments emerging from supposedly objective authorities in journalism, medicine, and the law.


This study presents one aspect of an increasingly prominent set of issues regarding the legal rights of same sex partners: to what extent and under what circumstances does our society recognize such a partnership as one in which one partner has the legal right to assume long term responsibility for the care of the other should he/she become disabled and possibly cognitively incompetent?

The author of the study, himself an attorney, presents the reader with a scholarly dissection of the conflict as it presented in this particular dispute, and ultimately ties it to the larger national struggle for gay and lesbian rights. For those interested in medical humanities and medical ethics, the work explores in depth the facets of this struggle as it may affect those who care for the critically ill and/or chronically disabled whose commitment is to a homosexual relationship.


University Press of Kansas

Place Published

Lawrence, Kansas



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