What is an advance health care directive?
An advance health care directive, which was previously called a durable power of attorney for health care and in other states may be called a living will, is intended to let your doctors know your health care wishes when can’t make your health care wishes known.
Who makes your health care decisions when you are unable to do so?
In California you can designate a health care agent who will make health care decisions for you. An advance health care directive is the written proof that your health care providers will need to allow your health care agent to act for you.
Terri Schiavo Case
Terri Schiavo was only 26 years old in 1990 when she was found on the floor of her Florida home in full cardiac arrest. Terri’s doctors believed that Terri had suffered massive brain damage. Terri’s doctors treated her with physical therapy and experimental therapy hoping to return her to a state of awareness but sadly Terri required a feeding tube to live.
In 1998 Terri’s husband asked the Florida courts to authorize her doctors to remove her feeding tube because he believed that Terri had no chance of a meaningful recovery. Terri’s parents opposed the request saying that Terri was conscious.
Terri Schiavo had no Living Will (Advance Health Care Directive)
Since Terri did not have a living will (advanced health care directive) the court held a trial to determine what Terri would have wanted. The court concluded that Terri would not have wanted extraordinary measures taken to extend her life and ordered the removal of her feeding tube. Terri’s parents appealed the court’s ruling. In 2001, the appellate courts upheld the decision to remove Teri’s feeding tube. After the feeding tube was removed, a new judge ordered the feeding tube to be reinserted.
Litigation and Government Involvement in the Case through 2005
In 2005, a Florida judge again ordered the removal of Terri’s feeding tube. Terri’s parents filed more appeals and got the Federal Government involved. President Bush signed legislation with the hopes of keeping Terri alive. Emergency appeals continued through the Federal Courts but Federal Judges upheld the state court’s decision.
Terri’s feeding tube was disconnected on March 18, 2005 and she passed away almost two weeks later.
Avoid Litigation by Preparing an Advanced Health Care Directive
An advance health care directive allows you to express your desires in an legally enforceable document. Your advance health care directive does not take effect until very specific medical conditions are met. Your health care providers will consult with your health care agent in the event that you are unable to make health care decisions.
It is your decision whether you want doctors to take extraordinary measures to extend your life or whether you want to die with dignity.