Posted: August 16, 2015

Why do I need a living will?”

This is the response that I usually get from individuals when I ask them if they have a living will.  Most of us, myself included, like to believe that we will always have time to prepare, and that a living will or a regular will can wait until later.  Unfortunately, all of us know that it is not true and that accidents or illnesses can strike suddenly and without warning. 

It can be difficult and uncomfortable to discuss how to distribute your life’s work upon your death or to consider important medical decisions such as extreme life-saving measures; however, I believe both are necessary in order to protect your family financially and family discourse.   A living will is a document that directs your doctors on what type of life sustaining care you desire.  The lack of a living will or medical directive can cause discourse among family as the spouse of a patient and the parents of the patient may have a different opinion upon what should be done.  A classic case illustrating the consequences of the absence of a living directive is that of a Florida woman named Terri Schiavo.

Now, the intricacies of the case are well documented and readily available, but my point in referencing Mrs. Schiavo’s  case is that Mrs. Shciavo was unresponsive and could not articulate what,  if any, life sustaining care she wanted.  Unfortunately, her husband and her family disagreed on what they believed to be the best course of treatment and final wishes for their loved one.  Their disagreement led to numerous court battles which lasted over a decade.  Eventually, the court decided with her husband and the feeding tube was removed.  It is important to note that a court decided Mrs. Schiavo’s case-- not her husband or her family, but the court.  As an attorney, I have great respect for our judicial system and the judges and attorney who participate, but personally I would want to make decisions regarding my medical care for myself.

Unfortunately, Terri could not speak for herself, and although we would like to think that our spouse and family are all on the same page regarding our  wishes regarding medical car,  but they may not be.  By taking the time to think about what you want, and taking the time to talk with your spouse and family while you are able to, your living will can make a difficult situation a little easier on your loved ones.  

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