Stockton Judge Rules on Food and Water (1997)

by Cathy Ramey
Associate Editor
Life Advocate Magazine

Stockton, CA–Two years after an automobile accident failed to kill him, Robert Wendland may die by court order. Wendland, in his mid-forties, was left first in a coma, and then “cognitively disabled” because of injury to his brain. He became newsworthy shortly after waking up from the coma when his wife directed that medical staff remove all food and hydration.

Rose Wendland’s decision to starve her husband met with the approval of the Lodi Memorial hospital as well as Wendland’s physician. However, Florence Wendland, his mother, and sister Rebekah Vinson petitioned the court to bar the hospital from implementing the younger Mrs. Wendland’s request.

San Joaquin Superior Court Judge McNatt ruled that while Rose Wendland was to be given conservatorship of her husband’s estate, she could not prohibit her husband from receiving life-sustaining care.

Because of his status as a disabled person, and because he has been characterized as more disabled than he is, a video-tape record was made in which Robert Wendland can be seen responding to the directives of a physical therapist.

On Tuesday October 21, 1997 Rose Wendland went to court a second time in an attempt to gain the court’s permission to stop food and hydration to her husband.

California’s Life Legal Defense Foundation has been following the Wendland case and advocating for him to receive full medical treatment without the withdrawal of food and water. Dana Cody, a director with the Foundation told reporters, “Robert’s disability is not a fate worse than death.” She noted that those who were involved in the attempt to withdraw food and water are “demonstrating nothing more than bigotry against a severely disabled person.”

Both Florence Wendland and Rebekah Vinson have offered to take on the care of Robert Wendland, however, to date Rose Wendland has not accepted their offers.


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