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Making Medical Choices – Lessons from the Schiavo Case

By David S. DeRose, Esq.

Shortly before this newsletter went to print in March 2005, the Florida case involving Terri Schiavo was in the news every day, tugging at our heartstrings and showing the complications which can arise from the absence of a living will .

If we learn anything from the Schiavo matter, it is the importance of committing to writing our thoughts about our own medical treatment if we are rendered terminally ill or in a state of permanent unconsciousness. A living will gives the medical community and the court system written direction as to your wishes for medical treatment, and appoints a family member or trusted friend as an agent who will carry out your wishes and make decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

We believe this issue is three-pronged, involving legal, medical and religious points of view. All three of these disciplines were explored loud and clear in the Schiavo matter. With respect to the religious issue, there are choices you will make for yourself that are in keeping with your own beliefs. You should seek spiritual guidance from your priest, minister, rabbi or other religious leader to aid you in making these choices. For the medical point of view, physicians and nursing staff confer to determine, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, whether you have totally and irreversibly lost consciousness or are in a persistent vegetative state, all of which suggests an irreversible medical condition. From the legal point of view, you can declare your right to die rather than continue life-sustaining treatments which will only prolong artificially the process of dying.

Contact an experienced Greensburg estate planning attorney via email, or phone us at 724-837-0080 in Greensburg or toll free at 888-534-6016.

For more information, please visit our Wills, Estate Planning, Estate Administration and Probate Information page.

Related estate planning and estate administration articles:

Planning for Peace of Mind

Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax

Do I Need a Living Trust?

Should I Transfer my Family Home to my Child?