Living Will: “Brain Dead But Kept Alive”
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
December 29, 2014
A Living Will is a document that enables you to choose your preference for being kept alive artificially on life support in the event that you are in a persistent vegetative stage, terminally ill or have an end-stage condition. Failing to execute this document may result in your family having to decide. That begs the question, “what happens in the event that your family disagrees?”
The CNN article linked below well illustrates the need for a living will. The article reveals that there are presently two cases pending in two states, California and Texas, where families are fighting to keep their loved one alive. In California, Jahi McMath, suffered complications following what normally is routine surgery, and she is currently “brain dead” as was ruled by the court. Her family is fighting to have her moved to another facility, which will require additional medical procedures to be done.
Similarly, in Texas, Marlise Munoz has been unresponsive since November when her husband found her on the kitchen floor of their home. While she is currently being kept alive on life support, her family believes she would not want that treatment. The additional complication is that Marlise Munoz is pregnant. Consequently, Texas state law states that “life-sustaining treatment” cannot be withheld from a pregnant patient, “regardless of her wishes or the age of the fetus.”
These cases remind us of the tragic story of Terri Schiavo which illustrates the need for a living will best. In that case, Terri Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state for over a decade. Her life was artificially prolonged throughout the duration of lengthy legal proceedings between her husband and her parents. The issue was whether the plug should be pulled. Ultimately, the husband won and the plug was pulled, as was her food and hydration.
This issue is important and one you can and should make. You would exercise your right to decide in the form of a living will, which is part of a 3-document package called “Advanced Care Directives.” If you leave it to your family, they may not know your preference. Even if they are aware of your preference, they may disagree with it and act accordingly if given the right or power to decide. Worse yet, they may desire to impose their wishes and perception of life, hope and miracles to determine your life’s outcome.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
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