An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure. This saying can be applied to so many aspects of life, including how you want your own to be cared for if you are ever unable to make that decision for yourself due to injury or other form of incompetence. In Virginia, you can ensure that your family, friends, and physicians will have no question about your medical choices by having a valid Advance Medical Directive executed that lists out what course of action you want taken in the event of different situations.
The shining example of why this document is so vital, even for those that are “young and in good health,” is the story of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman. She was all over national news nearly 15 years ago. Mrs. Schiavo suffered a severe heart attack which ultimately left her in a vegetative state. She was only 23 years old at the time. Following the heart attack, she remained in a coma until she was ultimately taken off life support and passed in 2005.
As for why her story is such a lesson, even so many years later, is the fight that ensued regarding her medical care and Mrs. Schiavo’s alleged wishes and her family. Terri married Michael in 1984. She suffered a crippling heart attack in 1990. As she did not have any documentation delineating what she would want to happen if she ever fell into a coma, Mrs. Schiavo remained in this vegetative state on life support. After 10 years, her husband petitioned the Court to remove the feeding tubes and allow her natural death to occur. He claimed that his wife had told him in prior conversations that she would not want to be kept alive only to be supported by machines. Mrs. Schiavo’s parents disagreed with this decision and a lengthy litigation and appeal process followed, including involvement of the Florida legislature. The Court ultimately agreed with the husband, the feeding tube removed, and she passed.
The drama and heartache of Terri Schiavo’s case could have been avoided entirely had she taken preparative action and executed a document delineating her wishes in regards to her medical care in the event she became unable to express her desires herself. Everyone should take heed and learn from her tragedy, even “young” people in apparently fine health, as Terri was in her 20’s when she fell into a coma.
Yes, as with many legal documents, you can prepare this for yourself. However, a skilled attorney can discuss your options, ensure that your Advance Medical Directive properly lists out your wishes, and is properly executed and legally valid in your state.
Our attorneys at the Law Office of W. Andrew Patzig, PLC., will make sure that we understand exactly what route you want taken in the event of different medical scenarios – for example whether you want to be administered pain medication but not be kept alive on a respirator, or you want all possible life preserving means administered, etc. – and even address the ultimate disposition of your body when you pass on.