If there is any good to come out of the death of Terri Schiavo, it is that people are now talking about living wills and powers of attorney.
No one likes talking about the end of life, especially their own. But living wills and powers of attorney are necessary, or else one winds up with all sorts of potential problems, the Schiavo case being probably the worse it can ever get.
And, while one is at it, a full-fledged will is a good way to insure that what you would like to have happen with your possessions after you depart truly gets done. There is nothing like death, especially interstate death, to bring out the worst in any family.
Having been involved in writing the Right to Die legislation in Springfield some years back, one would have thought that the contingencies of who makes decisions at death if a person is comatose, vegetative or irretrievable as per the agreement of at least two doctors, was settled.
But, as science and medicine advance and people live longer, the contingencies pile up. The law always seems to lag behind scientific advancement, and therein lies the problem.
Just who would you want to be responsible for you if you were in one of the three conditions noted above? For starters, it should always be someone who cares about you regardless of money involved. It is a relationship of trust.
I recall having a discussion with my son and late father when we talked about me. My father felt that as my dad, he should have the power of attorney for healthcare. He was a responsible man who loved me. But where we ran into trouble was that he said he would refuse to honor my request to donate my organs upon death, if I had died in such way as to make them useable and worth something.
“I could not bear to have someone else looking out of your eyes,” he said when, in fact, I could think of nothing more wonderful than someone else having the use of my eyes. It caused friction and eliminated him from gaining my healthcare power of attorney.
The other problem, too, was age. The odds were that he would precede me in death. Ultimately, my son took on this responsibility, though he tenses every time we have a discussion over final requests. It’s never easy.
I was very specific, as one cannot be fuzzy about these decisions–they are truly of life and death. There would be no “heroic” efforts to keep me going if I were on the last lap of life. And, that would mean no artificial feeding or artificial breathing devices.
The attorney drawing up my will said I was being morbid. I said I was not, but making sure that I would be in control of my finale through my chosen surrogate. It is just so much easier on a family having these decisions made in advance, so that they don’t have to have to make them.
But, if one is fully out of it with death on the doorstep, at least they know what my last wishes were. I certainly don’t want agents of government meddling in my final hours.
One can draw up a living will by oneself as long as there are witnesses to the act. But, to do it right and cover all potential questions and situations, a good attorney is a good investment.
And, while one is settling the questions of life and death and the attorney’s meter is still humming, it might be a good idea to give the financial power of attorney as well, to make sure that if one were medically incapable to deal with one’s finances, there is a trusted soul to handle bills, investments, purchases and the like.
One would hope that in anyone’s final days or hours, a family would all be on the same page and working for a kind and peaceful death for a loved one. However, this is not always the case, as highlighted in the Schiavo situation.
You can bet that a state and federal government will seek to get into the decision making process. Since Illinois loves to regulate all matters of living, you can bet that matters of dying will now go to the front burner. Be afraid!