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Have We Forgotten Terry Schiavo?

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) and I wonder how many people still have not signed medical advance directives since Terry Schiavo died. The answer would probably shock many of us. The one lesson we all should have taken from the Terry Schiavo case was that life altering events can happen at any age and if we don’t put our wishes in writing it can create unnecessary emotional turmoil for the people we love.

Making an advance directive does not mean that you refuse to receive life sustaining treatment if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. It does mean that:

  • You choose who makes your medical decisions if you cannot communicate;
  • You choose the type of care you want to receive especially if you have very specific religious views (i.e. Orthodox Jew; Jehovah’s witness);
  • Your loved ones can hopefully avoid a guardianship proceeding and the loss of privacy and expense it entails.

Who should make a medical advance directive? Everyone as soon as they reach age 18 (or in some states age 21) and are viewed as a adult in the eyes of the law. Why you ask? Because once our children become adults we cannot make their medical decisions simply because we are their parents. Before you send your children off to college make sure they have:

  1. A Durable Power of Attorney so you can make financial decisions for them if they are temporarily or permanently incapacitated;
  2. A Designation of Health Care Surrogate so you can make medical decisions if they are temporarily or permanently incapacitated (i.e. due to a car accident).

Be a role model for your children, your siblings, friends and family – make your advance directives today. Don’t know where to start? Join us for our panel discussion this month (see the calendar on our website). There’s no time like the present!