Originally Published Thursday, August 9, 2001

Court's opinion expected on Wendland case

The Record

The California Supreme Court is expected to file a written opinion today on the case of Robert Wendland, whose story sparked national debate over a conservator's right to make life-and-death decisions for a relative.

Wendland died July 17 of pneumonia at Lodi Memorial Hospital, nearly eight years after a car accident put him in a coma.

In September 1993, Wendland drove off the Highway 12/Interstate 5 onramp and was thrown from his car. The accident left him comatose. Officials said his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit for a motorist.

Wendland's wife and mother fought a protracted battle for the past five years over whether he had the right to live or die.

His mother, Florence Wendland, wanted him to remain on life support, while his wife, Rose, wanted to disconnect the feeding tube that kept him alive. Since Wendland left no legal document spelling out his wishes, the courts had to decide.

The California Probate Code remains unclear as to whether Wendland's wife, as his conservator, had the right to authorize the removal of a feeding tube which kept him alive.

Wendland's mother and sister obtained an order in 1995 to halt the removal of the tube, and San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt ruled in their favor.

However, the state appellate court said McNatt erred in the ruling.

The matter was brought before the state Supreme Court in May.

The opinion will be made available at 10 a.m. today and posted on the California
Courts Web site at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions