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Conservatorship of Wendland

Supreme Court of California
28 P.3d 151 (2001)


Facts

After Robert Wendland rolled his truck in a single-car accident, he became severely physically and mentally disabled and was reliant on artificial hydration and nutrition. Physicians informed Robert’s wife Rose that his condition would not change. Rose, Robert’s wife, and their children visited Robert and directed that treatment be provided to him when needed. After two years of treatment, Rose wished to terminate Robert’s treatment. Several of Robert’s treating physicians supported Rose’s decision, but the feeding tube was re-inserted pending input from the hospital’s ethics committee. After a hearing on the issue, the 20-member ethics committee approved Rose’s decision. Robert’s mother and sister filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent the removal. A trial court granted the request ex parte. Rose petitioned to be appointed Robert’s conservator with authority to make medical treatment decisions on his behalf. The court appointed Rose as conservator but reserved judgment on her request for authority to remove Robert’s feeding tube pending further information. After 60 days without any change in Robert’s condition, Rose renewed her request to have his feeding tube removed. Robert’s mother and sister asked the court to appoint an independent attorney representative for Robert. At a hearing to determine whether removal of the feeding tube was appropriate, Rose introduced Robert’s pre-accident statements regarding life-sustaining treatment. Robert said at varying times that he would not want to live in a vegetative state or a state where he could not enjoy the outdoors and do things he normally could do. The trial court denied Rose’s request. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the trial court was required to defer to the conservator’s good faith decision. Robert’s mother and sister appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Moore, J.)

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