Why You Should Have a Living Will
In 2005, Terri Schiavo died at the age of 41, curled in a bed in a Pinellas Park hospice facility, unable to talk or think, when her feeding tube was pulled. Schiavo had been in a persistent vegetative state since the age of 26 following a cardiac arrest leading to severe brain damage. She underwent several unsuccessful rehabilitation efforts, and ultimately, her otherwise private end-of-life matters entered the center of a national political debate regarding end-of-life wishes.
While her husband, Michael, insisted Terri would not have wanted to be kept alive through artificial life support, Terri’s parents, the Schindlers, fought to keep her alive. Furthermore, Mr. and Mrs. Schindler alleged that Michael was motivated by greed, and that he would inherit malpractice money upon Terri’s death.
At the heart of this dispute was that one central document was missing: Terri Schiavo never had a Living Will.
What is a Living Will?
A Living Will is an advance healthcare directive in which an individual specifies his or her wishes for end-of-life medical treatment. Through this, you can specify the type of healthcare you would like to receive, or not receive, even if you are unable to communicate your wishes at the time of medical treatment.
What Does Florida Law Say?
In the state of Florida, a Living Will refers to any witnessed written document or oral statement that specifies a person’s wishes regarding the termination of medical procedures when diagnosed with a terminal condition, an end-stage condition, or is in a persistent vegetative state.
According to the Florida Supreme Court, health care providers must follow the wishes of a competent adult as described in a Living Will, even if that request is to refuse medical treatment. Thus, it serves as a legally enforceable method of making sure a person’s wishes are honored. It is important to note that the Living Will comes into effect when a person has been deemed incapacitated by a physician.
Why do I need one?
Executing a Living Will grants you the opportunity to make difficult and important end-of-life decisions ahead of time, explains what your desires are, and enforces that your wishes will be followed. Although making these decisions now may be distressing and difficult, it can save your loved ones from experiencing stress and trauma later on. When preparing a Living Will, make sure to prepare a Healthcare Surrogate Designation as well.
If you have any questions regarding Living Wills and advance healthcare directives, please call O’Brien & Bennett at 941-316-9200 to speak to us today.