Importance of Living Wills Gaining Attention

Importance of Living Wills Gaining Attention

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John Daley ReportingThe tragedy of the Terry Schiavo case has many Americans and many Utahns thinking about end of life decisions they've never considered before, including creating a living will.

There are a number of websites which deal with this topic. They generally say the same thing -- that it's crucial to think about what you want, discuss it, and select a decision-maker to carry out your wishes.

The Terry Schiavo case has become perhaps the best ever public awareness campaign about the challenging struggles that can arise when the unexpected dramatically changes someone's life. Only 25-percent of Americans have a living will, which would tell people what to do in case they ended up in a permanently vegetative state. But Utahns we spoke with say the Terry Schiavo case is now making them think.

Nicki Heitz, Salt Lake City Resident: “It made me feel like I should get living will. And I want people to know what I want and I don’t want if something should happen like this.”

We talked with Maureen Henry, former State Director for the End of Life Care Partnership, and now an elder law attorney in private practice. She says the first step anyone should take even before writing a living will is to start thinking about it and discussing it with loved ones.

Henry says the key steps are:
1- Discussing with someone close to you exactly what you would want if you were suddenly unable to make your own decisions.
2- Choose a decision maker whom you trust to make decisions for you if you are unable.
3- And lastly, to communicate your wishes to other loved ones, and to your doctor if you choose.

Henry suggests all adults create a living will and update it throughout your life in anticipation of major changes. She says this would have prevented all of the problems in the Schiavo case, where Schiavo couldn't make decisions for herself, leaving loved ones to dispute what she really would have wanted.

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