Family Battle over California Resident's End-of-Life Care Ends in Wife’s Favor

A California Judge Ruled in Favor of a Wife’s Legal Right to End Treatment to Artificially Prolong Her Late Husband’s Life After He Suffered Severe Brain Damage That Left Him in a Permanent Vegetative State
Audio: 
Ana Romero, Wife of Juan Fernando Romero; and Jonathan Patterson, one of Ana’s lawyers and Staff Attorney for Compassion & Choices

(Los Angeles, CA, Monday, March 12, 2018) - A California judge ruled on Monday in favor of a wife’s legal right to end treatment to artificially prolong her late husband’s life after he suffered severe brain damage that left him in a permanent vegetative state. Brain injured patients in a permanent vegetative state have irreversibly lost their capacity for consciousness, but retain some involuntary or unconscious physiological functions, such as digestion and urination. This decision comes 15 months after Juan Fernando Romero’s family sued his wife, Ana Romero, to wrest control of his end-of-life care from her.

On May 3, 2015, as a result of illness, Juan Fernando Romero, 35, suffered severe brain damage from lack of oxygen for over 15 minutes with no chance of recovery.  After Fernando suffered numerous bouts of infection and pneumonia for more than a year-and-a-half, his wife Ana reluctantly accepted his looming death and arranged for him to receive palliative care at home. 

Unfortunately, on Dec. 9, 2016, the day before Ana had arranged to bring Fernando home, his sister and parents filed two lawsuits sponsored by the Life Legal Defense Foundation. The first suit sought to overturn Ana’s healthcare decision-making authority and the second suit urged the court to appoint his sister as Fernando’s healthcare proxy to keep him on life support.

On June 3, 2017, Fernando passed away at age 37, after the trial of the healthcare proxy case had ended and the Judge was in the process of making the ruling she ultimately issued Monday.

This lawsuit is drawing comparisons to the Terri Schiavo case. Fernando’s sister and parents claimed that because he had been raised a devout Catholic, he would not have wanted his feeding tube removed. To Ana’s distress, they insisted he was showing signs of consciousness, even though a physician they had hired to examine him had concluded that he was permanently unconscious, rendering him unable to speak or to understand and respond to vocal inquiries whether he wanted to be kept “alive.” Compassion & Choices improves care and expands options for the end of life. It supports, educates and advocates. Across the nation, Compassion & Choices works to ensure healthcare providers honor and enable patients’ decisions about their care.

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