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Robert Wendland's Long Battle Ends
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 18, 2001

This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

STOCKTON, CALIFORNIA--Robert Wendland, the man who had been at the center of a family's legal battle over his so-called "right to die", passed away in his hospital room Tuesday afternoon.

According to a media release from the Life Legal Defense Foundation, Wendland was surrounded by family members, including his mother, Florence, and his sister, Rebekah. The release did not indicate whether Robert's wife, Rose, was present.

A former auto-parts salesman, Wendland spent 17 months in a coma following a roll-over accident in September of 1993. In the years since he came out of the coma, doctors said he had drifted in and out of consciousness. He received food and water through a feeding tube.

Family members and medical experts disagreed over the extent to which he was aware of what was going on around him, and over what his wishes would have been.

In July of 1995, Rose Wendland asked that her husband's feeding tube be removed and that he be allowed to die, she said, because it was "what he would have wanted".

But Robert's mother disagreed and filed a lawsuit to keep the feeding tube in place so her son could continue to live. Florence pointed out that even though her son had a brain injury, he was not "brain-dead".

The case, which could have broad implications for thousands of Californians to whom guardians have been appointed, split Wendland's family and pitted several disability rights groups against groups supporting patients' so-called "right to die". A decision from the California Supreme Court had been expected within the next few weeks as to whether Rose could have her husband's feeding tube removed.

Robert had shown symptoms of illness for the last several weeks, but Rose had forbidden medical professionals to discuss details with his mother. Last week Florence became aware of her son's deteriorating condition and on Monday filed an emergency petition before the court to allow a doctor of her choice to examine her son.

A statement from Rose's attorney on Tuesday indicated that Robert did have pneumonia, and added that Rose was legally entitled to refuse medical treatment for him, including antibiotics.

Past stories on the Wendland case may be accessed from this Inclusion Daily Express web page: http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/advocacy/wendland.htm

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