Monday, March 21, 2005

Get a living will.

The recent and continuing controversy over Terri Schiavo's medical condition has caused many of us to consider having a living will. This legal document makes clear your wishes about certain aspects of your own end-of-life care. I read the following on the American Journal of Bioethics blog:

"You Need a Living Will

This is the location to find information about a living will - which after the Schiavo case you may really want to consider having. An advance directive aimed at ensuring that your doctors and significant others know what treatments you would, or would not, want has suddenly become the most important tool one could have in the event that there is any difference between your views and your family's views about end of life care. Country simple: if you would want a feeding tube removed were you in persistent vegetative state, and you think that it is enough that you told your family as much, think again and get a living will. Your state's information is above.

Warning: not guaranteed to protect you against the combined legislative force of a majority of congress."

No matter what you think about Terri Schiavo's medical care, no one wants to put their loved ones through the kind of turmoil and anguish Terri Schiavo's family is enduring right now. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, or have children, a spouse, or family. Get a living will. Discuss it with your family and friends. Make what would undoubtedly be a very difficult decision, just a little bit easier.

And remember, you can click the white envelope to forward this post to to others.


Susan said...

What if we would want to live in that situation? Is there a living will that can protect us from a "husband" who claims we want to die, profits/will profit financially from our disability/death, and can marry the woman he is currently committing adultery against us with (in the Catholic Church, as they want) only when we're finally dead? I find the issues of spousal abuse and disrespect for women far more terrifying than the life issue in this particular case...

Karama said...

Hi Susan,

A living will won't necessarily protect you from anything. All it does is make your wishes known. That a big part of the problem for Terri Schiavo: no one knows what she would want. Her parents claim to know. Her husband claims to know. But it's not clear what Terri would want. A living will tells your family and your physicians what your wishes are so that they can be considered (and upheld) should the situation arise. You can use a living will and advance medical directive to let your care providers and loved ones know what you would want, even if it's to be "in that situation".

Thanks for visiting "So what can I do." I hope you'll stop by again soon, and spread the word.

Karama said...

Also check out these suggestions from the Washington Post:

Five Wishes. More than 20,000 people have requested at least 150,000 copies of Five Wishes -- for themselves, friends, family members and employees -- over the last few weeks, group officials report. The document costs $5 each and can be ordered in bulk (25 copies or more are $1 each) at or 888-5-WISHES. Five Wishes documents purchased through (for $5 each) get a free year of secure online storage and are accessible with a user name and password. The cost after the first year is $2 annually. The site will store and post other types of advance directives for $2 per year.

National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. This nonprofit group's Web site offers free state-specific advance directives and also includes advice for communicating your wishes to family and close friends. At (click on "hospice and palliative care information") or 800-658-8898.

American Bar Association Consumer's Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning. Helps with "discovering, clarifying, and communicating what is important to you in the face of serious illness," says the Web site. Includes free worksheets, resources and suggestions, but does not create the directive for you. At

ABA Common Legal Myths About Advance Medical Directives. Written by the group's Charles P. Sabatino, the list puts to rest 10 myths about advance directives, such as "an advance directive means don't treat" and "I need a lawyer to do an advance directive." At .

Mayo Clinic's advance directive resource. This article provides an in-depth description of advance directives and how to create one. At (look for link to advance medical directives or put that term in the search engine.)

Karama said...

Also, consider the "Put it in Writing" site from the American Hospital Association.

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