September/October, 1999 Volume XIII Number 8

Hugh Finn’s death: A tale preferred to truth

By Bill Kling

It’s becoming clearer. Brain-injured Hugh Finn’s death by forced starvation and dehydration last October — sought by his wife, decreed by Virginia’s courts and anointed by a General Assembly majority — might’ve been about money all along.
About blood money, the coldest kind of cash.
And now about partisan politics.
And about coveting taxpayer dollars well beyond the $48,000 approved by the state legislature and the $13,000 ordered by a Prince William County Circuit Court judge.
And, in the not-too-distant future, perhaps even about a tear-jerker movie for mini-mall theaters or cable television.
After all, Hugh Finn was a brain-dead vegetable, wasn’t he, when his feeding tube was pulled at Manassas’ Annaburg Manor nursing home. His life, personality and humanness were permitted to just wander off somewhere, right?
Well, wasn’t he?
How could Hollywood or Home Box Office resist such heart-wrenching drama? Here’s the saga of a defenseless woman’s excruciating anguish and ultimate vindication as she heroically fights off Neanderthal politicians to mercifully, even courageously end the life of her beloved husband-turned-rutabaga.
It’d be difficult, though, to relate such a stylized movie version of grieving widowhood with that clenched-jawed woman of TV news reports, hatefully excoriating those who fought to save her helpless husband’s life andresiste her raid on Virginia’s income tax revenues.
Or the willful retaliator who last week financed her own travel from Kentucky to star, Kevorkianesque among Democratic politicos, at a piddling campaign gathering utterly out-spaced in a middling-sized Prince William County firehall when an envisioned super-turnout didn’t turn out.

And a tale is what the widow Finn’s story appears increasingly to be.
Hugh Finn, a Kentucky television newscaster before his injury in a 1995 highway crash, had languished in what some doctors termed “a persistent vegetative state,” a diagnosis disputed by others. He didn’t need life-support systems, though he was fed through a tube.
When doctors asserted he wouldn’t recover, his wife invoked Virginia law and ordered his feeding tube removed.
Other family members, including Hugh Finn’s parents and siblings, objected. They contended he wasn’t “brain dead,” could communicate through hand and eye signals and some speech, and didn’t want to die.
Governor Jim Gilmore, Attorney General Mark Earley and Delegate Bob Marshall intervened, but Virginia courts upheld the decision and Hugh Finn’s food tube was removed. Eight days later, he died.
This case, however, isn’t quite that open and shut.
“Although Hugh was noted to be a ‘good’ candidate for rehab” when he was transferred from a Philadelphia rehabilitation center to Annaberg Manor, says a press statement issued in late July, his wife “failed to have a blocked shunt in Hugh’s brain revised and had his therapeutic regimen discontinued.”
Such might’ve frustrated Finn’s recovery, even reversed it.
Indeed, not long after the accident, Mrs. Finn called a Kentucky news conference to joyfully announce her husband was no longer comatose, was talking, and was on the road to recovery.
But well before her husband’s death, according to the statement, she complained to family “she would not have to worry about money if Hugh had died immediately” -- and she told a sister-in-law she “could not do this ‘death ‘til you part’ thing.”
Since her husband died, the statement notes, the widow Finn “has received in excess of $800,000 in tax-free insurance funds.”
And, it discloses, she “has continued to harass the family, including restrictions regarding the visitation of the children by grandparents, aunts and uncles, solely based upon their position regarding Hugh’s death.”
One grandparent, the statement indicates, is the widow Finn’s own mother. The others are Hugh Finn’s Woodbridge parents. They all opposed her decision to precipitate her husband’s death. Then to collect court-ordered recompense, according to the statement, the widow Finn “garnished the wages of John Finn, Hugh’s brother and petitioner in the guardianship case.”
“John Finn has three children five years and under...,” it says.
“John capitulated to [Mrs. Finn’s] wishes when he withdrew his case against her as guardian although he knew his brother was cognitive. In fact, Hugh spoke to John before his death...”
The widow Finn “has not only destroyed the life of Hugh Finn,” the statement says, “but has gone on to decimate the rest of the family.”
And now she and her lawyer covet $100,000 and maybe much more of our tax dollars in exchange for dropping further court action.
Who issued such a absolutely damning statement?
Elaine Glazier issued it -- the widow Finn’s very own sister.
And Elaine Glazier’s revelations are horrifying indeed.

Bill Kling, former national political correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Times, lives in Coles Magisterial District and was chairman of the Prince William County Republican Party from January 1992 through March 1996

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Copyright © 1999 AFLM