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Wall Street Journal Quotes ELA Members on Living Wills

  • March 23rd, 2005

Two ElderLawAnswers member attorneys are quoted in a Wall Street Journal article on the importance of living wills in light of the Terri Schiavo case.

Like three-quarters of Americans, Ms. Schiavo had no living will when, at age 26, a heart attack cut off oxygen to her brain. She has been in what doctors are calling a persistent vegetative state for the past 15 years. A living will, which allows individuals to communicate -- in writing -- their end-of-life wishes if they are unable to do so themselves, would likely have settled the dispute currently raging between Ms. Schiavo&#39s husband and her parents over whether life-sustaining treatment should be withdrawn.

But the Journal article emphasizes that a living will cannot cover all of the potential circumstances that can arise in a particular medical case, and recent research shows that doctors don&#39t always follow them to the letter.

This is why a living will should be paired with a health care proxy or power of attorney document. This appoints a person to make these decisions for an incapacitated patient. In a 2003 survey conducted by AARP, only two in five adults age 45 or older had a durable power of attorney for health care decisions. But a living will or medical directive is still needed to help guide the health care agent.

The article quotes New York ElderLawAnswers member Bernard A. Krooks on the living will law in his state, and California ElderLawAnswers member Stuart Zimring on special instructions that can be placed in living wills. Zimring, who is president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, says some of his clients have had "specific instructions regarding grooming and fresh flowers in their rooms, and certain kinds of music being played." He also talks with clients about whether they would want to take part in experimental procedures.

The article notes that beginning April 1, the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization will have all state forms available at the Web site www.caringinfo.org.

To draw up a living will and other crucial estate planning tools, contact an elder law attorney in your area.

To read the Wall Street Journal article. go to: http://online.wsj.com/search (Paid subscription required.)

For more on living wills and other medical directives, click here.

Local Elder Law Attorneys in Ashburn, VA

Judith Mitnick

Needham Mitnick & Pollack, PLC
Falls Church, VA

Margaret O'Reilly

Margaret A. O'Reilly, PC
Herndon, VA

Samantha Fredieu

Hale Ball Carlson Baumgartner Murphy PLC
Fairfax, VA

Last Modified: 03/23/2005

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