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Friday, December 26, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 3/26/2005

Gain from Schiavo case: get a living will

BY ROSE RUSSELL

THE case of Terri Schiavo is a struggle between the right-to-life and the right-to-die camps.

It pits parents against the spouses of their married children.

And it has lured politicians into an arena where they have no business politicking.

The Schiavo issue moves one from being compassionate toward her parents, to pondering exactly what it is that Ms. Schiavo would want, to wondering why her husband, Michael Schiavo, doesn't just let her parents care for her.

Eight days ago Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube was removed.

Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, fought that move and have struggled in vain to have it reinserted.

On Thursday, their hope for intervention was dashed when the U.S. Supreme Court declined, for the fifth time, to intervene.

The case that erupted into a nationwide controversy began 15 years ago when Mr. Schiavo found his wife unconscious at their home.

Her heart had stopped briefly because of a chemical imbalance prompted by an eating disorder; she suffered brain damage in the process.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mr. Schiavo tried to help his wife regain some quality of life. He provided therapy for her, rented a home large enough so her parents could move in to aid in her care, and attended nursing school.

He gave it his best shot, it appears, and more. Now he insists it's time to let her go because she would not want to live this way. It is not clear at what point he decided to abide by her verbal - not written or legally documented - wishes to die rather than live in a vegetative state with a feeding tube.

The public wonders what else is not generally known. Cynics believe money could be behind Mr. Schiavo's determination to remove the feeding tube. If so, there may not be much money left, because someone has had to pay for her care in the Pinellas Park hospice in Florida.

It's no secret that Mr. Schiavo is involved with another woman - one account says the affair has been going on since 1995 - with whom he has two children.

Sure, he has every right to get on with his life. But there might be less cynicism about his doing so if he divorced Terri or wasn't engaged in an affair.

Despite the criticism hurled at Mr. Schiavo, at the Schindlers for wanting their daughter to live even in her condition, and at Congress for going where it shouldn't have by passing a bill early this week to try to keep her alive, one thing is still certain: the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. If God intended for Ms. Schiavo to die while the tube was still connected, she would have.

As complex as this case is, there are no simple answers.

If any good comes out of these parents' anguish, a husband's dilemma, and this national debate it is the need to make sure one has a living will.

If Ms. Schiavo had one, we probably wouldn't even know who she is.

A living will is a legal document that reveals a person's wishes in the event he or she is incapacitated as Ms. Schiavo is now.

Obtaining one is not complicated. In fact, it's relatively easy because a document can be downloaded off the Internet.

In Ohio, you don't need an attorney, although it's usually a good idea to have a lawyer review documents to ensure their legality. A notary or two adults not related to each other can witness the signing of a living will declaration.

In terms of legal documents, living wills are simple forms and easy to read.

It seems that hospital admissions would have patients who don't have living will to sign one.

After all, they load patients down with HIPAA privacy forms.

Why not living wills?



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