Remember Terri Schiavo: Importance of a Living Will

At 26 years old, Terri Schiavo was found unconscious on the floor.  When she arrived at the hospital, she was put on a ventilator to keep her breathing and was in a coma for more than two months.

When she emerged, she was unable to speak.  She had suffered severe brain damage because her brain was deprived of oxygen.  Multiple doctors diagnosed her as being in a persistent vegetative state.

What followed was a family battle between husband and family.  Terri’s family did not want to take her off the feeding tube and her husband who the court had appointed legal guardian contended that she did not want to be kept alive using artificial means.  Ultimately, this fight followed because no one truly knew what Terri’s wishes would have been.  On March 18, 2005, after an intense legal battle between husband and family, her feeding tube was removed.  This was more than 15 years after her husband found her unresponsive and without a pulse in their home.

Terri did not have a living will or directive to physician.  She did not have a legal document that stipulates one’s wishes for medical care should circumstances render a person unable to provide consent.  A Texas Directive to Physicians allows you to direct your physicians as to how you want your physicians to use artificial methods to extend your life in the event you are diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition.  It lets your family and doctors know your wishes.

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