Janet Rivera’s Family Can Make Medical Decisions, Won’t be Euthanasia Victim

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 29, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Janet Rivera’s Family Can Make Medical Decisions, Won’t be Euthanasia Victim

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 29
, 2008

Fresno, CA (LifeNews.com) — In a significant legal victory, a California court has allowed the family of Janet Rivera to resume making her medical decisions. As a result, the incapacitated woman will not become another euthanasia victim and have her food and water taken away like Terri Schiavo.

Rivera was deprived of food and water for 8 days after a court-appointed guardian removed her feeding tube despite her family’s wishes when he won the right to make her medical decisions.

The 46-year-old had a heart attack on February 2006 and she never regained consciousness.

After a hearing today in the Fresno County Superior Court, the family of patient Janet Rivera was reinstated as her conservator. Rivera’s cousin sought conservatorship so Janet’s care can be administered in a life-affirming manner.

The court ruled that Rivera’s cousin, Suzanne Emrich, temporarily replaces the public guardian who made the decision a few weeks ago to deprive Rivera of food and water.

An investigation is planned to determine if Emrich is fit to have guardianship on a more permanent basis.

Attorney Brian Chavez-Ochoa, with the Legal Defense Foundation, intervened on behalf of Rivera and her family and he told LifeNews.com he was pleased with the outcome of the hearing.

"The County of Fresno and the Public Guardian are to be applauded for immediately recognizing the rights of the family to care for their loved one and taking the steps to allow that process to be accomplished quickly and without delay," he said.

"The Court, from the earliest stages of this proceeding, proffered rulings of wisdom and gave substance and value to Janet Rivera’s life," the attorney, who helped the Schiavo family during its legal battle, explained. "The sanctity of life was honored and we thank the Lord for the wonderful outcome in this case."

The family wants permission to be able to remove Rivera from a respirator because, after she was removed from it when her food and water were taken away, they discovered she could breathe fine on her own.

Two more hearings will come up in the case before a permanent decision is made.

Last week, the court issued a temporary decision allowing the reinstatement of Rivera’s feeding tube while the case continued to today’s hearing.

Rivera’s brother, Michael Dancoff, told the Fresno Bee newspaper he was excited to hear about the ruling.

"I’m happy they’re giving her a second chance," he said. "I’m happy we’ll get to prove she’s not on her deathbed."

He says he believes Rivera, whom doctors diagnosed as being in a so-called persistent vegetative state, is still conscious.

"She looked at me and her eyes were open," he said. "She wasn’t dying. She wanted to live."

Jesus Rivera, Janet’s husband, had been his wife’s conservator until June 17, when he was replaced for unknown reasons by David Hadden, the Fresno County coroner. At the hearing, Judge Kazanjian said that happened because Jesus Rivera was not able to adequately provide for Janet’s medical care.

Jesus, according to a Bee report, wants to allow his wife to continue to receive food and water and wants "her body to give out when it gives out between her and Almighty God and no one else."

"You can’t starve someone to death," he said.

Doctors disagreed and, after consulting them, Hadden decided to remove Janet Rivera’s feeding tube.

At the time, Hadden’s office released a statement saying he made the decision after "immense consideration" and due to Rivera’s "untreatable and irreversible condition and to prevent any and all suffering that she may be enduring."

"If this were a family member of mine, I would want the decision made by the group of physicians who are taking care of this patient," he added.

Disability rights and pro-life groups have weighed in on the case in favor of Rivera and her family.

The newspaper said Hadden called the ruling last week an "appropriate course of action."

Rivera is currently admitted at the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.


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