The purpose of this blog is to recommend every American to outline directives for doctors to follow if they were ever in a Terry Schiavo situation. If you are unfamiliar with the Terry Schiavo case, a quick summary here will suffice:
Terry Schiavo suffered a cardiac arrest in her home in Florida in 1990. She suffered major brain damage as a result. Her doctors diagnosed her as being in a persistent vegetative state. From 1998 to 2005, her husband and parents engaged in a fierce legal battle over whether to keep her on life support or not. The legal fees to settle this matter were in excess of $1 million. Finally, on March 18, 2005, after 14 appeals and numerous motions, petitions, and hearings in the Florida courts; and after five suits in federal district court; struck down legislation by the Supreme Court of Florida; enactment of federal legislation (the Palm Sunday Compromise); and four denials of certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States, the feeding tubes were removed.
Everyone in a persistent vegetative state should have the right to decide how they want their life to end. We should never have the courts or the government interfering with this life decision. The best way to insure that your wishes will be carried out, should you be in a Terry Schiavo situation, is to have a Living Will in place.
A Living Will is a physician’s directive that tells doctors whether you do or don’t want to be kept on life support if you are in a persistent vegetative state. A Living Will would have prevented the courts and government from meddling in Terry Schiavo’s personal matters, had a Living Will been prepared prior to her cardiac arrest.
Once you have created your Living Will, it is critical to then talk to your loved ones about your wishes and how you want those wishes carried out. It is also vital that your loved ones know where your Living Will and other estate planning documents are kept. In an article titled, Do Your Clients Have the Same Problems as Tom Brokaw?, Randi Siegel, President of DocuBank, talks about where and how these documents should be kept so they can be accessed by your loved ones in times of emergency.
To be kept on life support is a personal decision. It is a decision that you should make while you have the mental capacity to make such decisions; it should not be made by some government official or judge. Please take the time to have this important document created for you and your loved ones. Please call us to schedule an appointment so we can create a living will for you and your loved ones.
Contributed by Morris Hall, PLLC Arrowhead, Scottsdale and Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, David T. Eastman.
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This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.