Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Conservatorship of Wendland case brief

Conservatorship of Wendland case brief summary
28 P.3d 151 (2001)

A trial court denied a conservator's petition to withhold artificial nutrition and hydration from the conservatee, who was not terminally ill, comatose, or in a persistent vegetative state, and who had not left formal instructions for health care or appointed an agent or surrogate for health care decisions. The California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, Division Three, reversed. The objectors to the conservator's request appealed.


A motor vehicle accident injured the conservatee's brain, leaving him conscious yet severely disabled, both mentally and physically, and dependent on artificial nutrition and hydration. The conservator, the wife of the conservatee, proposed to direct the conservatee's physician to remove his feeding tube and allow him to die. The objectors were the conservatee's mother and sister. The trial court applied the clear and convincing evidence and found the evidence insufficient to prove that the conservator's decision was in accordance with either the conservatee's own wishes or best interest. The appellate court believed the trial court was required to defer to the conservator's good faith decision.


  • However, the state supreme court held that the trial court correctly required the conservator to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, either that the conservatee wished to refuse life-sustaining treatment or that to withhold such treatment would have been in the conservatee's best interest. 
  • Lacking such evidence, the trial court correctly denied the conservator's request for permission to withdraw artificial hydration and nutrition.

The appellate court's decision was reversed.

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