As tragic as the Terry Schiavo situation was, it underscored the tremendous difficulties that can arise when a patient does not specify in writing what their wishes are regarding life support.
Take Control of Your Health Care Decisions
One of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life will be those involving “end of life” decisions.
Questions such as how long (if at all) artificial life support should be used, the alleviation of pain, the final disposition of your remains –obviously involve some of the most intimate subjects, and among the most difficult to contemplate.
The Advance Health Care Directive is your means for specifying what you wish to happen to yourself should you be in an end-of-life situation and unable to make those decisions for yourself.
Appointing Someone to Carry Out Your Wishes
In an Advance Directive, you first appoint an agent for health care to represent you, if you are unable to speak for yourself. Next, you will specify in detail how you wish your “end of life” decisions to be carried out.
It is important to stress that you are choosing an agent to carry out your written wishes, not to substitute their own judgment.
The High Cost of Not Having Your Wishes in Writing
In California, the presumption is that – in the absence of a writing that indicates a patient’s decision to be removed from life support – Courts will almost never allow a hospital to withdraw treatment. There is some reason to believe that, had Terry Schiavo been living in California at the time of her incapacity, she would still be on artificial life support to this day.
Therefore, if you fail to execute a valid health care directive, it is very likely that the hospital will be forced to prolong your life as long as possible – even if that is not in accordance with your wishes.
Your family would then be required to go to Court to challenge the decisions that State law tells the doctor he or she must make. As the Terry Schiavo case demonstrated, these court proceedings can be very emotional, and can drag out for months if not years.
Too Important to Procrastinate
While we understand that our client’s often do not enjoy thinking about or discussing such issues, it is our firm belief that, by acting today when you are in good health, you can spare your loved ones the hardship of making these decisions down the road.
There is nothing more heartbreaking than to see a collection of family members gathered outside the hospital room of a loved one, trying to guess what should be done regarding life support.
Take responsibility for your own decisions, and spare your loved ones the agony of trying to choose for you.
We invite you to contact us to discuss your Estate Planning needs in greater detail.