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Five Reasons to Get a Living Will


"pink rose" by author

“pink rose” by author

A living will — a.k.a. Advance Medical Directive — is a power of attorney that directs your living relatives or beneficiaries to make medical decisions for you in the event you become unable to do so yourself.  Typically, living wills are used for the ultimate decision of extraordinary means to extend life.

But why should you get a living will?

1. It is a legally enforceable document that removes all doubt as to your wishes, making it easier for your family to act at an emotionally distressed time.

2. It heads off potential for expensive and exhausting litigation, the Terri Schiavo case being the most extreme example.

3. It gives you peace of mind that your final wishes will be carried out if the unthinkable happens.

4. It gives your friends and family peace of mind knowing that they will not have to agonize over an unthinkable decision.

5. It is inexpensive.  You can get one on my online services page.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

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Living Wills: The Curious Case of Terri Schiavo


In March 2005, the nation was captivated by the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who had been living in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) for 15 years, surviving only because a feeding tube was providing her with sustenance. Doctors had concluded that her higher brain functions had ceased and that she had no hope of recovery, and her husband Michael Schiavo decided to remove the feeding tube and end her life. Her parents fought this decision for years, and the legal firestorm that ensued eventually drew in politicians on the state and national level, and eventually an unsuccessful petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ms. Schiavo finally died, but not after becoming a cause celebre for both sides of the “right to die” issue.

At the core of the debate was whether or not Terri had definitively given Michael consent to end all extraordinary means to prolong her life — colloquially, “pulling the plug.” Michael had repeatedly insisted — and state courts agreed — that he had discussed with his wife that she did not want to continue living under extraordinary means, and that he had oral consent to end her life if the situation arose. However, she did not write down her intentions, leaving it to a “he said, she said” battle that would rage for years. In the end, much heartbreak and hardship could have been avoided if Terri had what has become known as a “living will,” a legally binding document that you can use to determine end-of-life issues should you become permanently incapacitated. And, as soon as this case finally ended, I drafted my own living will and distributed it to my loved ones.

The living will must be properly witnessed to be effective (in Virginia, one person must witness your signature; in DC, you need two witnesses), and may contain additional provisions for organ donation and power of attorney for health care. If nothing else, it will provide peace of mind that if the unthinkable happens, your family and friends will not have to deal with unnecessary heartbreak and a potentially emotionally charged fight over what to do.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.