Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo

May Terri Schiavo rest in peace.

Okay, so I was hoping not to get into this discussion. (If you hadn't already noticed my silence on this very hot topic). And I am not going to get into this messy, high-profile case now either. Instead, in honor of Ms. Terri Schiavo, I'm going to offer a lesson in this story - one of the many morals that can be taken from this tragedy.

I want each of you to write and sign an advanced directive.

First of all, you may ask, what is an advanced directive? An advanced directive is a legal, written document which states precisely what you would want should anything happen that would prevent you from communicating with others what your wishes would be. This document should also include a "Durable Power of Attorney" stating who you want to speak for you should you be unable to speak for yourself. These documents would prevent your family from splitting apart in disagreement with one another as happened in the Terri Schiavo case.

You wouldn't want your loved ones to split off from one another when you are ill or when you die, would you? I don't think Terri wanted that either.

Five Wishes is a legal document that makes it easy to list what you'll want by asking specific questions for you to answer in a step-by-step format. It does cost $5, though.

Many states also have a pre-written advanced directive form that you can complete, which are often free of charge. The US Living Will Registry has links to each of the states' forms.

The American Bar Association's website also includes some of the same questions from the Five Wishes document to help you decide who you'd want to make health care decisions in your behalf. It's not always the first person that comes to mind. You want someone who knows what you'd want and would stick to it despite their own feelings. You want someone who would be strong enough to advocate on your behalf despite others' objections. And you might prefer someone who lives nearby for convenience sake.

And don't think just because you're young, you don't need to do this yet. Think about Terri Schiavo. The younger the person, the harder it is to make these difficult decisions on their behalf.

Please keep in mind that states laws vary. And I am not a lawyer, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the law on the websites I refer to. These sites are merely suggested as a starting point to preventing turmoil in your loved ones' lives should you ever become incapacitated.

So, in honor of Terri and out of love for your family, take the time to write your advanced directive now.

Other resources:

-Resource List from the Commission on Law and Aging
-Durable Power of Attorney and Advanced Directive Forms by state

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