A California case expected to be decided shortly in the state supreme court could impact virtually all mentally incapacitated adults in the state who have not previously made their wishes clear. The case of Wendland v. Wendland will determine whether Robert Wendland continues to live or is fatally deprived of water-despite the fact that he is conscious, able to operate either motorized or manual wheelchairs, to indicate "yes" or "no" on a communication board, and to paint. One thing he cannot do is swallow normally.
Wendland suffered severe head injuries in 1993, and was in a coma until January, 1995. Though he has recovered many levels of consciousness, his wife and conservator (guardian) continues to press the court to authorize her to order withdrawal of Robert's tube feeding/hydration. The lower court refused, but the state appeals court reversed the ruling, sending the case to the state supreme court. It could reach the U.S. Supreme Court as early as next year.
Thomas J. Marzen, writing in the National Right to Life News, noted that, depending how the courts rule, others in similar situations "would be at the mercy of whichever family member (or stranger) ended up being appointed their guardian."
Based on a National Right to Life News story