The Importance of Living Wills

the Terri Schiavo case

Article summary. The recent legal battles over the removal of feeding and hydration tubes from Florida resident Terri Schiavo focused public attention on the importance of expressing one's desires regarding the administration of life-prolonging procedures in a legally effective manner. Terri Schiavo lingered in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years because she failed to clearly express her desires regarding the use of life-prolonging procedures. Obviously, people will come to different conclusions regarding the use of such procedures. But, it must be recognized that most people die in hospitals or nursing homes, in a mentally incapacitated condition, without ever having expressed their desires regarding the use of life-prolonging procedures. This failure imposes on family members the agonizing decision of whether their loved one would have wanted such procedures applied or removed. Regardless of one's views on the use of such procedures, the lesson of the Schiavo case is the importance of expressing these views in a legally effective manner, such as a living will. Church leaders can be of immense help to their congregation in providing leadership and counsel on this vital issue.

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Posted: May 2, 2005
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