Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Speaking of Living Wills

Some updates on the status of Terri's case ...

On the positive side, one effect has been the continuing dialog regarding Living Wills. On the surface, this sounds like something one has to sit down and create for the express purpose of directing medical care. But what about written evidence from other sources??

I found this item in the Seattle Times today of interest, discussing how the recorded words of Pope John Paul II can be used as a Living Will statement by the pontiff ...

A year ago, Pope John Paul II turned Catholic teaching on its head when he declared that it was a moral obligation to provide food and water indefinitely, even to patients in a vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

"The administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act," he said at an international conference last March.

Now, with reports that the ailing, 84-year-old pontiff may return to the hospital to have a feeding tube inserted into his stomach, and with the recent spotlight on such issues in light of Terri Schiavo's case, those words are being re-read. John Paul's words may indicate what he wants for his own care and how the Vatican will go about making such decisions.

"The closest thing we have to a living will for John Paul is this document he issued a year ago," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Vatican expert and editor of America, a Catholic weekly. "Clearly, it's going to be very difficult to disconnect any fluids or hydration from him because that can be interpreted as his will about how he would want to be treated."

When I scanned the web for information on various forms, I found the distinction between a Living Will and a Medical (or Health Care) Power of Attorney of interest. The Living Will contains a person's statements about specific actions and treatments that they wish to permit, or want to avoid, in their own treatment.

Even with a Living Will, however, problems can occur in interpretation against a specific scenario. Witness the debate over whether a feeding tube does or does not constitute 'medical treatment'. In my view, it does not - but the decision in Terri's case is not in line with my views.

The form with more flexibility, and potential power, than the Living Will is the Durable Medical Power of Attorney. This allows me to specify who I want to make the decisions for me when I can't make them for myself.

More importantly, these two can be used together, as they are not mutually exclusive. I personally will be looking at how to create the best protection for myself, as each of us needs to tailor to our own wishes and situation.

If you search for "Living Wills", you will see tons of resources to search for forms, most of which are organized for specific states. Tip - use these to understand the outlines and basic format, then work with a lawyer to build your documents. This is not a place to play expert by yourself!

Other updates ...

Red Guy in a Blue State has a weird item to consider - check out Is this Ironic or What?

And look who has suddenly made an appearance in the media on this ... Jesse Jackson. Oh good, we were ALL waiting for that, weren't we? Hat tip to Jeff at Digital Brown-Pajamas.