If your doctors determine that you are in an irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state, and if you don’t want to be kept alive with medical heroics such as life support, you should sign a living will. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a living will is clear and convincing evidence of an individual’s intent to withhold consent for heroic medical treatment, including life support machines. Without a living will, your loved ones will have to make the decision regarding life support. That may lead to a family battle and you not getting what you want.
Terri Schiavo: 15 Years on Life Support
Terri Schiavo was a young woman living in Florida with her husband, Michael, when she collapsed in their home. Michael called 911 and Terri was rushed to the hospital; she was hooked up to life support machines. Like Nancy Cruzan (discussed in part one of this article), Terri did not have a living will, but she had expressed that she didn’t want to be hooked up to machines to artificially extend her life.
The attending physicians made it clear that Terri was in a persistent vegetative state and would not improve. Her husband sought to have life support removed. Terri’s parents disagreed.
Years of court battles ensued. You likely saw news coverage.
Terri was finally removed from life support 15 years after she collapsed in her home. She died shortly thereafter.
You Need a Living Will
If you don’t want medical heroics at the very end of life, when there is no coming back, execute a living will. Chat with the adults in your family. Let your loved ones know how you feel, andlet them know that you’ve signed a living will.
If either you or your loved ones don’t have living wills, consult a qualified estate planning attorney.