March 29, 2005

The Schiavo case points to the need for advance directives for health care

by W. Timothy Howes, Esq.

While the media has focused on the political and moral issues raised by the Schiavo case, there is a very practical lesson for all of us: Make sure you have an enforceable living will.

The Teri Schiavo case has dominated the news this March.  Her parents have left no stone unturned in their quest to save her life.  They have gone to every level of the Florida state and federal courts, and have petitioned the U.S. Congress, the Florida Legislature and Governor Jeb Bush for help. 

The case has forced many Americans to recognize that human life is sacred, and when there is doubt as to someone’s wishes, the presumption should be in favor of life.  While the moral and political issues have dominated the debate, there is one practical issue for each and every one of us: Make sure that you have a living will.

The law allows Each of us to decide who will serve as our health care representative if we become incapacitated, and what measures doctors should use to keep us alive should we become incapacitated.  Our wishes are then memorialized in a legally recognized document known as Advance Directive for Health Care, or more commonly, a living will.  Unfortunately, there is no such document in the Schiavo case.

There are road maps that guide us in creating advance directives.  In New Jersey, experts have done extensive research, created guidelines and drafted forms of advance directives for New Jersey residents to use.  Each person makes decides which options suit him based on his or her own ethical and/or religious beliefs.  Many experts have published guides.  The State of New Jersey has published one for general use.  The Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen has published another for practicing Roman Catholics.

None of us ever wants to use our living will.  However, each of us should create one as part of a comprehensive estate plan.  By doing so, we can save our loved ones months or even years of anguish.

For more information on how to create a living will, click on the links below:

Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen, NJ
State of New Jersey

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If you need legal help in matters similar to those described in this document, call Howes & Howes for a prompt, confidential consultation.

Howes & Howes

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Raritan, New Jersey 08869

Telephone: (908)704-0037

email: [email protected]