Brother of Potential Euthanasia Victim Janet Rivera Allowed to Become Guardian

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

Brother of Potential Euthanasia Victim Janet Rivera Allowed to Become Guardian

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 9
, 2008

Fresno, CA ( — The family of potential euthanasia victim Janet Rivera has won again as a local court has allowed Michael Dancoff, her brother, the become the permanent conservator. Rivera, of Sanger, California, was denied food and water for 11 consecutive days in the same manner as Terri Schiavo.

Schiavo lost her nutrition for 13 days before succumbing to the death her former husband wanted and won after a lengthy court battle.

Rivera was left to die a painful death by starvation and dehydration a month ago when a Fresno County public guardian removed her ventilator and stopped giving her food and water.

Janet began breathing on her own and a national outcry and help from a pro-life attorney resulted in the guardian reversing his position and reinserting Rivera’s feeding tube.

Judge Debra Kazanjian ruled today that Dancoff will be allowed to become the decision-maker regarding his sister’s care.

Josh Brahm, the director of education for Right to Life of Central California, talked with about the latest decision.

“I’m glad that the family has what they should have had all along: the right to make the decisions for Janet’s medical care,” he said. I hope that now this ordeal is over, the family can get back to a semi-normal life.”

“While a new chapter is opening for Janet Rivera’s family, it’s important that the rest of the country continues to talk about this landmark case,” Brahm continued.

“This is the first case I know of that has gone through a court where a united family was denied medical decision making rights by a county official. It happens all the time, but usually the family doesn’t go to the media and courts to stop it," he said.

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.

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.

Brahm recently did an extensive interview with Dancoff on RLCC’s Life Report podcast.

Although the legal battle in the case may finally be over, Brahm still plans to remain in contact with Janet Rivera’s family.

“We’re looking at hosting an end-of-life issues conference in late-October with Terri Schiavo’s brother Bobby Schindler and renowned assisted suicide expert Wesley Smith,” he told

Related web sites:
Right to Life of Central California –


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