Robert Wendland died of pneumonia today (July 17, 2001). His mother was at his side. Neither his wife nor his children were.
During the last several weeks of her son’s life, Florence Wendland was not permitted to take him out of his room. She was denied all knowledge about the state of his health.
She does not know if he was properly turned or how or whether he was treated for pneumonia. She did not even know what ailed him. She has been denied access to all medical records and all medical information about his care. Florence Wendland learned of the purported cause of his death via a press release sent out by Lawrence Nelson, Rose Wendland’s attorney, which he issued after her son had died.
The fight to save Robert Wendland from dehydration was not in vain. A dangerous legal precedent was avoided. The lives of other disabled people, whose names we will never know, may well have been saved.
But this was merely a holding action. Unless we are able to convince society that disabled people like Robert Wendland have lives of equal moral worth, our society will continue to discount their humanity and brush off their deaths.
In the meantime, as we mourn the loss of Robert, we can only send our most sincere condolences to Robert’s mother, who stayed with him to the end, his sisters and brother, who were allied with her to save his life, and all of those who believed fervently in Robert’s right to live his life fully as a disabled man.