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Thursday, August 16, 2001

Wendland decision praised

Judge Bob McNatt said, when ruling that Rose Wendland could not order the removal of Robert Wendland’s feeding tube, that he was making the “wrong decision for all the right reasons.”

Judge McNatt’s was the right decision for all the right reasons, as the California Supreme Court affirmed last week when it refused to allow conscious disabled people to be starved/dehydrated to death without clear and convincing evidence such would be in their best interest or consistent with their expressed wishes.

Because Robert died on July 17, the court was not obligated to decide this case. I applaud the justices for recognizing the significance of the issues presented, including the fact that other lives could be at risk, and making the right decision.

On behalf of my clients, Florence Wendland and Rebekah Vinson, and Robert’s other family members, I thank the following people and organizations for their unwavering support and assistance:

• Life Legal Defense Foundation, including Executive Director Dana Cody, Administrator Mary Riley and Legal Director Katie Short.

• Wesley J. Smith, Rita Marker and Kathi Hamlon of the International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force.

• Diane Coleman of Not Dead Yet, and all the other disability rights organizations that signed the amicus brief lodged with the court.

• National Center for the Medically Dependent and Disabled, Inc.

• Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, who donated countless hours of medical expertise.

• The innumerable other people who selflessly gave their time, talent and offered prayerful support throughout our successful six-year battle to prevent Robert from being starved/dehydrated to death, establish a legal precedent that will give future guidance to California courts, and prevent other families from suffering the anguish my clients have endured since learning of the plan to bring about Robert’s death in July 1995.

I am proud to have had the opportunity to represent Florence Wendland, a mother who loved her disabled son unconditionally and who unobtrusively lives out her faith each day.

Any child would be privileged to have a mother as loving, accepting, forgiving and committed to her child as Florence was to Robert, and continues to be to her surviving children. She made my work on this case — however challenging, nerve-wracking and exhausting — a joyful, inspiring and enlightening journey.

The Supreme Court decision bearing his name is Robert’s legacy — and, happily, it is a legacy of life. That’s truly something to be thankful for and proud of.

Janie Hickok Siess, Esq.