Robert Wendland, R.I.P.

Robert Wendland died on July 17, 2001. His mother, Florence, was with him when he died. Robert’s death followed several weeks of disturbing reports from Florence concerning the situation at Lodi Memorial Hospital, where Robert had lived since his accident in 1993.

As reported elsewhere in this issue [see this page], the oral argument of Robert’s case before the California Supreme Court went extremely well. The attorney for Rose Wendland was quoted after the argument as saying “I think that we lost this case today.”

Two days later, on June 1, when Florence was on one of her regular visits to Robert, she was informed by hospital administrators that Rose had made several new orders. First, Florence was no longer allowed to visit Robert anywhere but in his hospital room. (Florence had been accustomed to take Robert for walks to different areas in the hospital, including the activity room and the “quiet room.”) Second, other family members, such as Robert’s sister Rebekah, were prohibited from visiting Robert. Third, the medical personnel at the hospital had been instructed not to give any information regarding Robert’s treatment or condition to Florence or other family members.

In early July, Florence noticed that Robert appeared ill and feverish. Being unable to obtain any information about his condition, Florence notified her attorney, Janie Hickok Siess, who contacted Rose’s attorney about the situation, including Rose’s new orders.

Rose’s attorney simply affirmed Rose’s determination to continue this new course. Becoming increasingly alarmed by Florence’s reports about Robert’s deteriorating health, Janie immediately filed a petition in the trial court to allow Florence access to information about Robert’s condition and treatment, as well as an examination by a different physician. The trial court denied the petition, as did the Court of Appeal, where Janie filed a writ four days later. Janie also held a press conference, which apparently sparked enough inquiries from the press to cause Rose to issue a press release, in which she revealed, for the first time, that Robert was “under the care of” Ronald Cranford. Cranford, a staunch advocate of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, had testified on Rose’s behalf at the 1999 trial in this matter. In his testimony, he likened Robert’s responses and activity to that of a trained animal, and stated that providing Robert with food and water was “futile”. In other news reports, Cranford was identified as the “spokesman for Wendland’s wife.”

Florence did not know, and was prevented from knowing, that Robert had pneumonia until she learned from a press release issued by Rose Wendland’s attorney the day Robert died. Janie Siess was at the Supreme Court clerk’s office filing an emergency petition for review even as Robert died. Shortly after filing the emergency petition requesting that Robert’s mother, Florence, be apprised of Robert’s condition, she received a call from the Los Angeles Times informing her that he had died.

Rose’s attorney, Lawrence Nelson, is now considering contesting any further consideration of this case by the California Supreme Court. We plan to assist Janie in that fight, if necessary, but let’s not forget that dangerous legal precedent was already averted because of LLDF’s participation in this case. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Robert Wendland, and for Robert’s mother, Florence Wendland, his sister, Rebekah Vinson, as well as for Janie Hickok Siess, who sacrificed so much time and energy on this case.