C&C’s Legal Team Helps Woman Honor Unresponsive Husband’s Wishes

March 23, 2018

A Los Angeles Judge rules that 37-year-old Juan Fernando Romero’s wife, Ana, who was being sued by his family, has the authority to remove him from life support.

Right before Christmas of 2016, C&C’s Legal Advocacy department received a desperate call from Ana Romero and her attorney in Los Angeles to discuss a case involving Ana’s husband, Juan Fernando Romero. In 2015, while Ana was pregnant with their second child, Juan Fernando, then 35, suddenly became ill and suffered severe brain damage from lack of oxygen. It left him in a permanent vegetative state with no chance of recovery. After Juan Fernando suffered numerous bouts of infection and pneumonia for more than a year, Ana, his healthcare proxy, reluctantly accepted his looming death and arranged for him to receive palliative care in their home.  

Unfortunately, on Dec. 9, 2016, the day before Ana had arranged to bring Juan Fernando home to die in peace, his sister and parents filed two lawsuits sponsored by the Life Legal Defense Foundation, a antichoice law group, suing Ana to wrest decision-making rights away from her.

After hundreds of hours of work from our outstanding legal team,  including the law offices of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Jon B. Eisenberg and Mark Drew, on March 5, after over a year of court battles, we emerged victorious. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Thornton House ruled: “As his spouse, Ana is the presumptive healthcare surrogate for Juan Fernando in light of his incapacitation.” She further noted that neither Juan Fernando’s mother, father nor sisters ever discussed with him what his wishes were if he was in a permanent vegetative state, bedridden and unable to recover or communicate. The full decision can be read here.

“This case is grotesquely similar to the Terri Schiavo case,” said Eisenberg, a prominent Northern California appellate lawyer who worked with Compassion & Choices to defend Ana Romero and was one of the attorneys for Michael Schiavo, the husband of Terri Schiavo. “Both are classic examples of ‘right-to-life’ zealots taking advantage of and dividing grieving families to promote their extremist political agenda without any concern about how their cases damage these people’s lives.”

“I am thankful for the judge’s ruling validating my judgment to follow my husband’s preferences for end-of-life care after doctors said he would not recover, that he died of natural causes, and I fully complied with both Catholic doctrine and the Health Care Decisions Law,” said Ana. “But tragically … he needlessly lingered for another six months before he died.”

“Ana Romero could have decided to drop this case after her husband died to focus on her role as a single mother of their two young children and sole family breadwinner,” said Jonathan Patterson, one of Ana’s lawyers and staff attorney for Compassion & Choices. “But she bravely battled on to ensure Fernando’s tragedy served a greater purpose, to benefit others by discouraging similar lawsuits that only cause pain and suffering for everyone involved.”

Compassion & Choices
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