Schiavo Case Prompts A Spark of Interest In Living Wills - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/25/05

Schiavo Case Prompts A Spark of Interest In Living Wills

The case of Terri Shiavo has caused families all over the country to take a look at their own lives and what they would do if confronted with the same issue. For many, the issue has sparked conversations about living wills.

After doing research locally, NewsChannel 11 found that only 20% of people in the US have a living will. That means many families could face the same predicament as Terri Schaivo's parents, should a tragedy occur.

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Through congress' Patient Self Determination Act of 1991, many health care facilities are required to give out information on creating a living will. NewsChannel 11 spoke with Covenant Medical Center's Senior Vice President of Faith and Ethics, Ted Dotts, who said you can avoid a lot of anguish if you have a living will.

"Those are the most anguishing ones, where you think you could've done a little more and it might've reversed it," said Dotts, who has had to help make the final life or death call numerous times. Cases similar to that of Terri Schiavo.

Dotts says a booklet on advanced directives, commonly known as a living will, which many hospitals are required to hand out, can often help you avoid such battles.

"It allows you to cast influence on what you want on medical people who take care of you, but it also allows you to influence your family," explained Dotts.

The booklet also talks about the medical power of attorney, the person who speaks for you if you're unconscious, or in a vegetative state, such as Schiavo.

"Schiavo's father, Bob Schindler said Friday, he legal opinions we're getting are telling us that the judge's decision last night should be reversed. That's the information we're getting and we're now hanging, waiting for that," said Schiavo's father, Bob Schindler, on Friday.

Schindler is now fighting for his daughter's life. Terri didn't have a living will, so legally, power of attorney went to her husband, who has now had her feeding tube removed against her parents' wishes, sparking a major debate in congress.

Dotts considers himself a man of faith, and having helped make difficult life or death decisions for those with and without living wills, he says "playing God," so to speak, is never easy.

"Playing God means we're responsible, physicians, nurses, hospital assistants to do the very best for that person, the most loving act," said Dotts.

He also said, what's difficult to determine is whether the best act of love is to remove support or attempt to prolong life.

Dotts said two major issues you may want to include are whether you would want to be resuscitated and if you would want assisted breathing.

For more information on living wills, (click here).

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