Originally Published Tuesday, January 1, 2002
 

News that touched a nerve

* Violence dominated headlines in 2001. Terrorism and war were top stories for The Record as well as papers around the world. An energy crisis, politics, and economic woes also touched our lives. Here's a look at the top 10 stories of the year produced by Record journalists.

The Record's Choices

8. Robert Wendland dies

Robert Wendland, the 49-year-old Lodi man unwittingly catapulted into a legal and ethical battle that landed in the California Supreme Court, died July 17 of pneumonia in Lodi.

In 1993, a drunken Wendland failed to negotiate a Highway 12 onramp to Interstate 5, was thrown from his vehicle and suffered traumatic brain injury which threw him into a coma that lasted months.

After emerging from the coma, he remained until the end of his life in a reduced state of consciousness that became the pivotal point for a legal battle over whether his wife, Rose, had the right to withdraw food and hydration tubes and allow him to die as she said he would have wanted.

Pro-life advocates joined Wendland's mother, Florence, in the legal battle to keep him alive.

In August, Florence Wendland emerged victorious as the state Supreme Court clarified the state probate code and forbade removal of feeding and hydration tubes from an incompetent, yet conscious, conservatee unless the conservator proves by "clear and convincing" evidence that he or she is acting on the conservatee's wishes. Rose Wendland declined to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Readers' Choices

The top ten Record stories of 2001, according to readers who voted by mail, e-mail and Web form:

8. Wendland Right to Die Case: Robert Wendland, a man with severe brain injuries who spent eight years in a state somewhere between consciousness and coma, died July 17 of pneumonia.  In August, the California Supreme Court sides with Wendland's mother, who argued against Wendland's wife's request to remove his feeding tube.