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Good will

Writing out wishes could save
a family unendurable grief

June 2, 2001

Press Democrat Editorial

Seven California Supreme Court justices will decide whether Robert Wendland will live or die.

This decision -- which should have been made by the man and his doctors -- has been thrown to the courts because Wendland didn't leave written instructions for his family in case of a medical emergency.

Nearly eight years ago the 49-year old Lodi man was in a car accident that left him in a coma for 17 months. Since then, he has lain helpless in a hospital, kept alive by feeding tubes. His wife says he is mentally dead and that this isn't "what he wanted." His mother says her son "never talked about how he'd want to die. It was never in his mind."

Dying isn't on the minds of most people. But if Robert Wendland had left written instructions and given copies to his doctor, his family would have been spared the mental anguish of trying to guess his desires.

No one leaves their house in the morning planning to be in a car accident, to be struck by an aneurism or to suffer a debilitating stroke. Yet these things happen every day.

Take a few minutes to think about what you would want if a medical condition left you dependent on life support. The best way to ensure that your directions will be followed is to create a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. This simple document is inexpensive, doesn't take much time to create (talk to an attorney or call the Sonoma County Bar Association at 542-1190) and could save your friends and family years of heartbreak.


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