Family of Disabled Patient Janet Rivera Gets More Good News From Local Court

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 14, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Family of Disabled Patient Janet Rivera Gets More Good News From Local Court

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 14
, 2008

Fresno, CA ( — The family of a disabled woman who almost became a victim of euthanasia in the same way as Terri Schiavo won another victory in court on Thursday. Michael Dancoff, brother of Janet Rivera of Sanger, is now in the process of obtaining permanent conservatorship of his sister.

Rivera was denied food and water for 11 consecutive days in the same manner as Schiavo lost her nutrition for 13 days before succumbing to the death her former husband wanted and won after a lengthy court battle.

The Fresno County Superior Court issued a report on Wednesday saying Rivera’s cousin is qualified to become her guardian.

Judge Debra Kazanjian will ultimately decide in a September 9 hearing whether Dancoff will be allowed to become the decision-maker regarding his sister’s care.

Guardianship had originally been appointed to the cousin, Suzanne Emrich, who has plans to move out of state.

During a recent visit with Rivera, Dancoff told the Fresno Bee newspaper that she responds in a limited fashion by blinking her eyes and moving her mouth. He says he hopes Rivera recovers from her injuries eventually and hopes to get her rehabilitative care to do so.

"I think she’s still in a mentally conscious state," Dancoff said. "I’m going to wake her up."

He says he is encouraged by the fact that Rivera began breathing on her own after removal from life support and hopes weaning her off oxygen will help.

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

Josh Brahm, Director of Education for Right to Life of Central California, attended the meeting and talked with afterwards.

“I’m glad to hear that Michael is pursuing full conservatorship of Janet,” he said. “Michael understands how to handle these difficult medical situations and he’s not going to give up fighting for his little sister.”

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

Hadden decided to remove Janet Rivera’s feeding tube after doctors indicated she wouldn’t recover.

“This case shows that so-called ‘futile care theory’ needs to be seriously discussed on a national level,” Brahm said. “Some doctors believe that when a patient reaches a certain stage of illness, age or injury, any treatment other than comfort care is ‘futile’ and should be withheld or withdrawn, even if a patient wants treatment because of deeply held values or a desire to live."

“Currently, doctors and hospitals can refuse treatment simply because of their personal opinions. This is not a medical determination, but simply a value judgment," he explained.

"Unless people strongly object and legislatures take action now, this new and deadly game of ‘doctor knows best’ may be coming soon to a hospital near you," he concluded.

Related web sites:
Right to Life of Central California –


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