By John Jalsevac

FRESNO, Calif., July 29, 2008 ( – After a hearing today in the Fresno County Superior Court, the family of patient Janet Rivera was reinstated as her conservator. The Court ruled that Ms. Rivera’s cousin, Suzanne Emrich, temporarily replaces the public guardian who made the decision a few weeks ago to deprive Ms. Rivera of food and water.

Rivera has been in coma for the past two years, resulting from a heart attack. After Rivera’s husband recently experienced medical problems, a Fresno County Public Guardian was appointed to take charge of Rivera’s medical care.

Last week, after having been dehydrated and not fed for 8 days on the order of the Fresno County Public Guardian, attorneys representing Rivera’s family intervened in the case, with the result that the Court ordered that her foods and fluids be restored.

Attorney Brian Chavez-Ochoa, who represented Rivera’s family, said he was happy with the outcome of today’s 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 sanctity of life was honored and we thank the Lord for the wonderful outcome in this case.”

“When Ms. Emrich contacted us on July 21st Brian was quick to take this on. We are very pleased that the family will be allowed to care for Ms. Rivera and that public officials listened to Ms. Rivera’s family,” stated Dana Cody of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. Life Legal Defense Foundation, along with Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, was able to assist behind the scenes so that Chavez-Ochoa could get to court before it was too late for Ms. Rivera.

Last week Alex Schadenberg, the Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition wrote that Rivera’s case is “a very important case.”

“If the courts decide that the Public Guardian has the right to make medical decisions for Rivera, and that the Public Guardian can dehydrate Rivera to death against the wishes of the family, then everyone who does not have a legal advanced directive will be able to be killed by dehydration,” he said.

“Remember, Rivera is not otherwise dying; she is cognitively disabled and unlikely to return to a cognitive condition. If people who are cognitively disabled can be dehydrated to death, then the lives of many people with cognitive disabilities will be directly threatened when they experience significant health problems.”

See related coverage:

California Public Guardian Attempts to Dehydrate Woman to Death over Wishes of Family