Sandra Yi ReportingThe Schiavo case raises questions about patients' health care rights and the importance of living wills. Who should have one? And could it protect you, if you became incapacitated?
Attorneys say not enough people know about living wills and how important is to have one. They say when tragedy strikes such a document can give families some peace of mind.
Russell Blood: "I see clients every week who have lost a loved one in an accident where they never expected that to happen. They were young, something happened and as a result of the accident, now they have important decisions to make."
And they can be life and death decisions. Legal experts say a living will or an advance health care directive can spare families more pain during a difficult time. A living will allows people to make their health care decisions after they are physically or mentally unable to do so. Attorneys say without the document, it may be hard to know what a person would have wanted.
That's evident in the case of a comatose Florida woman. The fight over the life of 39-year old Terri Schiavo, who has brain damage, has split a family apart. Her parents refuse to pull the plug, but Schiavo's husband says his wife never wanted to be kept alive.
Russell Blood: "They can save so much heartache, so much difficulty. You know, life is uncertain."
A similar document, called a durable power of attorney, allows you to authorize someone to make health care decisions for you. Both documents can be revoked at any time.
Russell Blood: "Some people are worried that if I sign this now, 'Oh, you can make a decision for me'. No, it doesn't work that way. It's when you become disabled and unable to act for yourself."
Blood says it's a simple way to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Russell Blood: "No family every really need be put through this because it is so easy to do."
Signing a living will document is free and you don't need an attorney. You can actually find the document online and print it out.