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Why is a Living Will Important?

On Behalf of | May 9, 2017 | Estate Planning

A Living Will ensures your wishes are fulfilled in the event that you can’t speak for yourself.

In 1990, a 26-year old bookkeeper named Terri Schiavo collapsed from cardiac arrest at her residence in St. Petersburg, Florida. She was eventually resuscitated by paramedics, but she suffered massive brain damage from lack of oxygen to her brain and was left in a permanent vegetative state. Doctors tried speech and physical therapy in the hopes of improving her situation but to no avail. Terri’s only way of survival was by a feeding tube, providing her water and nutrients.

Because of her lack of a living will, from 1998 to 2005, Terri Schiavo was the subject of intense litigation that captured the nation’s attention. Beginning in 1998, Terri’s husband, Michael Schiavo, attempted to have her feeding tube removed to allow her to die naturally. He contended that she would never recover from her vegetative state and that she would have wished to pass away. Conversely, her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, challenged Mr. Schiavo’s actions, contending that Terri was a devout Roman Catholic and would want to stay alive should she be able to express such a desire.

Since she had no living will and had not established a power of attorney, the court case was very drawn out. After numerous rounds of litigation, an intervention by Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Congress, and President George W. Bush, the Federal Courts finally found that Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed. She died on March 31, 2005.

The inherent problem in the Terri Schiavo case was that she did not have a living will. A living will expresses a person’s desire to stay alive and on artificial nutrients or their desire to be allowed to die.

It is strongly encouraged that you have a living will to declare your wishes to your family and medical providers.

Without a living will or health care power of attorney, the Courts, as in the Terri Schiavo case, would have to hear evidence regarding what your wishes would be if there is a disagreement among family members on whether to remove a feeding tube. To set up a living will for yourself, or to learn more about your options for health care power of attorney, contact us to be connected with the right attorney for your legal needs . With hundreds of years of combined legal experience, Batson Nolan PLC is committed to our clients and to achieving results that exceed expectations.