Right now you are the person in charge of deciding what type of medical care you receive. Well, you and your insurance company. But what will happen if (and likely when) you are no longer able to make medical decisions for yourself. That day may be twenty years from now, OR it could be tomorrow.
Terry Lynn Shiavo Case Revisited
Consider the case of Terry Lynn Schiavo which ignited a firestorm of controversy when it pitted the Parental Rights of an adult living in a vegetative state against those of the adult’s Spouse. Terry Lynn was a healthy 26 year old married woman living in St. Petersburg, Florida when she suddenly collapsed from a heart attack and fell into a coma. Lack of oxygen had caused massive brain damage. Almost three months later, doctors determine Terry Lynn was in a persistent vegetative state.
Eight years after her heart attack her husband, Michael, petitioned to have her feeding tube removed which would result in termination of her life. Michael’s petition resulted in a legal battle with Terry Lynn’s parents that lasted eight years in both Federal and State Courts. Michael argued her actions while in the vegetative state were involuntary. Her parents argued Terry Lynn was able to communicate and that she did not want to die. Ultimately, a Judge determined Terry Lynn would want to die and ordered the removal of her feeding tube. To this day, no one really knows what Terry Lynn wanted.
Make Your “End of Life” Medical Care Wishes Legally Binding
The Terry Lynn Shiavo case sent every State scrambling to enact its own laws for “End of Life” care. The result: Advance Healthcare Directives including (1) Living Wills, and (2) Healthcare Power of Attorneys. Each of these is a legal document that records a patient’s wishes for “End of Life” healthcare.
Complete Your Advance Healthcare Directive Now
Why now? Because right now you have time to think about the kind of “End of Life” healthcare you would like to receive. How long are you willing to live in a coma? How long are you willing to live in a persistent vegetative state? Do you have religious or personal objections to certain medical procedures? Also, right now you can talk to your family or close friends and let them know your wishes. It may be that the person you want to handle your “End of Life” care is not willing to “pull the plug” (like Terry Lynn’s husband). It may be that the person you want to handle your “End of Life” care is not willing to take on that responsibility.
Laws Vary from State to State
Each state has enacted its own set of laws regarding Advance Healthcare Directive. You will need to execute an Advance Healthcare Directive for the state where you reside or where you expect to receive medical treatment.