Why You Need a Living Will

Fortin Law Group

Published: August 29, 2023

You may have heard the term “Living Will” and wondered, Do I need one? A Living Will is commonly known in California as an Advanced Healthcare Directive. It is a legal document that sets forth your wishes should you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself. You can specify your wishes regarding extraordinary life-saving measures, whether you would like to have your organs donated, which healthcare providers you would like to treat you, who will make decisions for you, what decisions are to be made, etc.

A common example is whether you would like to be placed and remain on life-support. You may wonder, though, Am I Too Young To Worry About An Advanced Healthcare Directive? The short answer is, No. You may recall the famous case of Terri Schiavo. Schiavo was 26 years old and married to the love of her life, Michael Schiavo, when she collapsed on the floor of their apartment. Emergency personnel restarted her heart and she was transferred to the hospital. About two weeks after arriving there, her doctor concluded she was in a persistent vegetative state. She never regained consciousness. Her husband transferred her to a chronic care facility where she remained on a feeding tube, unable to move or verbally communicate.

Terri Schiavo had never prepared an Advanced Healthcare Directive. As a result, her husband was required to seek court permission to remove her feeding tube, which he did after five years into her vegetative state. Her family opposed it. Her husband claimed that she would not have wanted to be kept alive by artificial means. Her family disagreed - the Terri they knew would want to fight to get better. The fight went to the Court to decide what Terri would have wanted.

For the next 15 years, the Court battles dragged on. During that time, Terri’s feeding tube was ordered removed three times, each time an appeal was entered or a plea to the governor. The debate sparked intervention from the Legislature and then Governor Jeb Bush. After another separate Court battle, the legislation and intervention by Governor Bush was overturned in the Courts. There was even new law signed by then President George W. Bush that could have affected her case. Ultimately, the Courts would not step in to invoke new legislation.

Terri Schiavo died in 2005 at the age of 41 while still on life support due to dehydration. Years of legal fees, court costs, family conflict and suffering took its toll on all involved and garnered much media attention. Several books have been written about her case.

At Fortin Law Group, we strive to keep your family out of court and conflict. An Advanced Healthcare Directive is one of the important tools that is a part of our legal legacy planning. Contact us to get started on your estate plan today.

This article was provided by Fortin Law Group, Laguna Niguel, California. This article is intended to provide the reader with general information regarding current legal issues. It is not construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for the need to seek competent legal advice on specific legal matters.

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