Copyright © 1997 AFLM
November/December, 1997 Volume XII Number 9
The case of Gerald Klooster
Incompetent to make his own decisions, Gerald Klooster gained national attention in 1995 when his wife, a Hemlock Society member, made an appointment for her husband to see Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
Friends that she visited in Florida overheard Mrs. Klooster making several phone calls to Kevorkian and his assistant Neal Nichols. She booked a one night only room reservation at the Concord Inn and then arranged for a flight to take her and her husband to Michigan.
Fearing that Gerald Klooster was destined to be a victim of "assisted suicide," the couple who were hosting Mr. and Mrs. Klooster notified Chip Klooster that his father was in potential danger. The younger Klooster, an osteopathic physician in Michigan, flew to Florida and took his father away from Mrs. Klooster's control.
Gerald Klooster was subsequently examined by two physicians, including a neurologist, each of whom determined that he was incapable of making coherent decisions regarding his own care. However, one point that he made clearly and repeatedly was that he wanted to live.
In November of 1995, Michigan Probate Court Judge Frederick Mulhauser granted sole custody of Gerald Klooster to his son Chip.
But Gerald Klooster was still not safe. Angry that her son had thwarted her plan, Ruth Klooster turned to a Probate Court judge in her own state in order to try and regain possession of her husband. Judge William McKinstry held a hearing. Chip Klooster's sister, Kristin Hamstra and her siblings in California each testified that they were aware of Ruth Klooster's plan to seek out Kevorkian to kill Mr. Klooster. None of them attempted to stop their mother from taking their father to Michigan. Still Judge McKinstry accommodated Ruth Klooster in part by ruling that Gerald Klooster be returned to California and placed in the care of Kristin Hamstra.
A battle ensued between the Michigan and California Probate Courts, one which characterized Chip Klooster as an elder-abusing son on the one hand, and as his father's lone protector on the other. Ultimately an agreement was reached in April of 1996. Gerald Klooster was sent to live with Hamstra. Ruth Klooster could have only supervised visits with her husband for the first six months. Further, she was to abandon all plans to have her husband killed, even if assisted suicide became legal in the state of California.
Despite the conditions set forth in the custody agreement, Gerald Klooster was soon returned to his wife's home. On September 24, 1996 paramedics responded to a call in which Gerald Klooster was found unconscious on the floor, apparently from an overdose of sleeping medication. Ruth Klooster claimed he had gotten into the medicine on his own and attempted to stop paramedics from treating him.
Police ruled the incident was "an attempted suicide with suspicious circumstances."
Following the medical crisis Judge McKinstry revoked Mrs. Klooster's custodial privileges, but only for a time. On February 7, 1997 he restored them to her after Ruth Klooster asserted that she had installed an alarm system and placed safety latches on all doors and cupboards containing medication or alcohol.
In addition to restoring custody to the wife, despite the fact that her last trip out of town had been for the purpose of having her husband killed, Judge William McKinstry allowed that Ruth Klooster could once again take her husband out of state.