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Terri Schiavo and the Need for a Living Will

Life is filled with uncertainties and comes with no guarantees. There are many occurrences we could never have anticipated. However, there are things we can do to help prepare ourselves for the unforeseen events, such as creating important legal documents.

On February 25, 1990, Terri Schiavo collapsed in her Florida home at the mere age of 26 years old. Terri's brain was deprived of oxygen, resulting in severe brain damage. After two and a half months in a coma, Terri's diagnosis was elevated to "vegetative state".

For several years, Terri went through various physical and experimental therapies to attempt to revive her to a state of awareness. Eight years after Terri's collapse and with countless failed therapy treatments, Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, petitioned the courts to remove her feeding tube.

The next seven years were a non-stop legal battle between Terri's husband and her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler. While Michael wished to remove the feeding tube and let Terri pass on, the Schindler's felt that Terri had a chance to recover and wished to keep her alive and continue treatment.

After seven years and numerous hearings, rulings and appeals, Terri's feeding tube was removed on March 18, 2005 and she passed away on March 31. We will never know what Terri would have wished in this situation since she never wrote her wishes down. At only 26 years of age, she likely hadn't begun to think about end-of-life wishes.

It is never too early or too late to plan ahead - in fact, the best time to do it is now! Since life comes with no guarantees, we need to prepare as best we can. If Terri Schiavo had created a Living Will, she could have determined whether she wished to be kept alive through artificial means or not, preventing a prolonged court and family battle.

A Living Will allows you to list your treatment preferences and whether you wish to have your life artificially sustained or not. You can also create a Medical Power of Attorney designating a trusted individual to carry out your wishes by making medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable.

No matter your age or situation in life, make sure your wishes are known. Create a Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney to ensure they are carried out and that loved ones are not left guessing what you would have wanted.

For more information on these important documents, contact MH at 888.222.1328.

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