Living Wills Aren't Just for the Elderly, ELA Member Points Out

The Florida case of Terry Schiavo is a tragic reminder that living wills are for young and old alike. ElderLawAnswers member attorney Joseph Karp told the Palm Beach Post [in October 2003].

"Everyone should notice that this case involves young people," said Karp, who has law offices in Palm Beach Gardens, Port St. Lucie and Boynton Beach. "No one knows if they'll be in a traffic accident or suffer a medical catastrophe."

At age 26, Ms. Schiavo suffered a heart attack that cut off oxygen to her brain. Now 39, she has been in what doctors are calling a persistent vegetative state since 1990. (See "Schiavo Case Is Tragic Reminder of Importance of Living Wills," Oct. 29, 2003.)

Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube had been removed October 15, after her husband won court permission to allow her to die. But doctors, supported by Ms. Schiavo's parents, reinserted the tube a week later, acting on an extraordinary order by Florida governor Jeb Bush. Ms. Schavo remains in legal limbo.

"The problem would have been avoided if she had a living will," said Karp. A living will specifies the type of care a person wants to receive if incapacitated. (For more on living wills and other medical directives, click here.)

Paul Malley, president of the Tallahassee-based nonprofit Aging With Dignity, said requests for his organization's $5 packet of legal end-of-life documents, "Five Wishes," have skyrocketed. The Aging with Dignity forms were drawn up with the advice of the American Bar Association and are valid in 35 states, including Florida.

To read the Palm Beach Post article, click here.

To visit Attorney Karp's ElderLawAnswers home page, click here.