Sunday, October 23, 2005
Living with a Living Will?  

I just recently became aware of this very well-written piece on living wills entitled "Killing Wills" which clearly articulates many of the problems associated with these much promoted documents.
It's a pity that the mainstream press and media overlooked the fact that Terri Schiavo, while still in full capacity, could never have consented to the removal of enteral nourishment upon the event of a profound neurological insult. Indeed, it wasn't until 9 years after Schiavo suffered her injuries, and at least a year after her husband and guardian petitioned the court for the authority to withdraw her tube-provided food and water, that such an act could take place and - even then - only under certain circumstances. It is, therefore, unreasonable and disingenuous for columnists, bioethicists and 'scratch' attorneys to promote the idea that a simple piece of paper would have circumvented the predicament that the Schiavo case triggered. It is also completely false to say that a living will, in the traditional sense, is a document crafted to protect the patient’s best interests. It's anything but.
A living will has nothing to do with living. It, instead, has everything to do with dying. It has to do with granting permission to others to withdraw medically necessary care from you so that you can either die naturally or die quickly – whichever comes first. For many people, the provision of artificial life support when death is eminent can seem unreasonable and unwanted. That's certainly understandable. But, consenting to such a thing can be a hazard inasmuch as it opens the door for the removal of medically necessary treatment when death isn't eminent.
Read the entire piece at Pamela Hennessy's Blog

Anecdotes such as the one included in the article, show the problems with placing your care in the hands of the medical community when it comes to end-of-life scenarios. It seems that often a living will only confuses the situation because it provides language which can be interpreted in several ways, and of course, no document can cover all of the possibilities which might occur. As noted on EWTN's site, it is far better to designate someone to have the authority to make your medical decisions in the event that you are no longer able to do so.

Not too long ago, through second hand sources, I learned of a woman in her forties, with whom I was familiar, who died suddenly due to complications associated with a viral infection. Within days of the initial symptoms, she had died despite being taken to the hospital. The reason that she died might have been that more aggressive care was not given to her sooner or it was not continued for a longer period. The reason for the care not being provided sooner or sustained longer might be that her living will was interpreted to say that she would not want that type of care.

Once at the hospital, her living will was located, and the medical community decided to follow what she had written which included not using any "heroic measures" to keep her alive. I am of the belief that she never envisioned that the condition which would prompt looking at her living will would be some type of viral infection nor that it would happen to her at such an early age unless it was some type of horrible accident. In other words, her living will was not written for the scenario she found herself in, and it is unlikely, in my opinion, that she would not have wanted "heroic measures" applied to keep her alive and attempt to restore her from the condition in which she found herself.

H/T: BlogsforTerri

Posted by David at 5:45 AM  |  Comments (0)  | Link


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