Janet Rivera's Life or Death Dispute Settled

July 29, 2008 7:26:40 PM PDT
A life or death dispute between Fresno County, and the family of a comatose Sanger woman has been settled. The family of Janet Rivera and Fresno County have been at odds over withdrawing the life support she's had for past the two years. A judge decided on Tuesday her family can control her health care, but they're under strict orders to keep the woman on life support for the next few months so the court can fully explore Rivera's future. Michael Dancoff is Janet Rivera's brother, "I think that's she's still with us." Dancoff hopes his sister will some day snap out of a vegetative state. She suffered severe brain damage two years ago. Rivera has been housed at a Fresno specialized health care facility. Dancoff said, "She can feel. If she can feel that means she is alive. She is not unconscious. She is conscious."

In court Tuesday morning, a county attorney dropped their effort to end the woman's life. At one point, the County Public Guardian David Hadden controlled Rivera's health care and decided to withdraw life support. Hadden said he consulted with five doctors, and they all told him Rivera would never fully recover. Then her family intervened. Heather Kruthers is a Fresno County Attorney. She said in court, "Since then they have come forward, they would like to step in. My understanding is the public guardian is willing to step aside at this time as conservator of the person only."

A judge agreed and gave Rivera's cousin Susan Emrich control over her care. But even Emrich is unsure of Rivera's future. Emrich said, "For me, these feelings and what I am doing personally how I feel about this has nothing to do with any expectation that she will get better."

In the mean time, the county will control Janet's assets. Her family is happy as long as they can decide how to treat a woman they hope will defy all odds. In the next few months, the judge will explore many issues like who will take over Rivera's assets. Another hearing will be set and the judge should make final decisions in September.

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