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Not Dead Yet in court for Wendland

May 30, 2001 -- Members of Not Dead Yet are at the California Supreme Court today as oral arguments are heard in the case of Robert Wendland, whose wife wants to remove his feeding tube; his mother has fought to keep him alive.

Wendland became brain-injured in 1993 as the result of an automobile accident. After 16 months in a coma, he woke up. Today he operates his own wheelchair, indicates "yes" and "no" on a communication board, paints, and plays wheelchair bowling, say advocates and his mother's attorney, Jamie Hickok Siess.

As a result of his brain injury, he uses a feeding tube to get the nutrition and water; it is this tube that his wife wants removed; she says he is "in living hell," according to a story in the May 30 San Francisco Chronicle. His mother and disability advocates disagree.

Consequences of this case are "staggering," says Not Dead Yet founder Diane Coleman. "There are millions of people with head injuries, labels of mental retardation and Alzheimers across the nation," she says, who could "become subject to medical killing through removal of treatment -- including food and water -- regardless of their own wishes in the matter."

News accounts of the case have painted it as a "right to die" case and have tended to report that Wendland cannot recognize people and that his is a "tragic case."

The May 29 Stockton Record gives an account of the 4-year history of the case, which is now being heard by the California Supreme Court and will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights organization that leads the disability community's opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia, filed an amicus brief opposing Rose Wendland's efforts to have the feeding tube removed; ADAPT, Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, The Arc, Brain Injury Association, Inc., Center for Self-Determination, The Center for Human Policy at Syracuse University, the Disability Rights Center, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, and TASH have joined in the brief.

How the Wendland case has been covered on national television

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