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AUGUST, 2001



Robert Wendland was a man seriously disabled as the result of brain injuries sustained in a car crash. But before his wife, Rose, stopped his rehabilitation, Robert had been able to maneuver his wheelchair to a desired destination, write the letters in his name, paint pictures, play games, and change TV channels using a remote control.

Rose, who had visited Robert only sporadically since 1996...and when she came, only stayed a few minutes...said Robert was "brain dead." She went to court to have his food and water removed. His mother, Florence, who made a long bus ride at least three times a week to see Robert...and always spent several hours with him...fought for her son's life.

Six weeks ago, disability advocates, including representatives of Not Dead Yet and the national Brain Injury Association, attended oral arguments before the California Supreme Court, after filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Florence. Florence's attorney provided the Court with "a compelling analysis of the risks of denying meaningful due process protections to people with disabilities in health care decision-making," according to Amy Hasbrouck, who was the primary author of the disability brief.

Based on what happened during those arguments, Not Dead Yet president Diane Coleman, said, "We've been hopeful about a ruling in Robert's favor." Not long after the hearing, Florence started noticing that Robert was having trouble breathing. In the days and weeks that followed, he became progressively worse. But since none of the doctors or nurses would tell Florence about Robert's condition or about the treatment he was getting, Florence decided to go to court to ask that Robert be examined by a doctor of her choice.

(Her request would have been reasonable in any case. But it was particularly apropos because the notorious Ron Cranford...the original 'Dr. Death'...had arrived on the scene to "advise" the attending physicians.) A Superior Court in Stockton turned Florence down. So did the 3rd District Court of Appeals. And before her attorney could file a petition with the California Supreme Court, Robert died.

His mother, Florence, who was at his side, said her son was breathing so hard during his last moments that his body shook. His wife, Rose, who was NOT with him, called his death "peaceful, dignified, and unmarred by pain or suffering."

Florence has requested an autopsy. 

(718/01 LA Times, Wesley Smith, etc.)


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