AMARILLO The public attention to Terri Schiavo’s case underscores the necessity of making personal life-or-death decisions before the unexpected happens.
“Certain legal documents may help insure that your wishes are known, even if you are unable to communicate them,” said Andrew B. Crocker, Texas Cooperative Extension gerontology specialist.
The documents are a big step, he said, but don’t forget to discuss your wishes with family members as well.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday denied an appeal by the parents of Schiavo to have their severely brain-damaged daughter’s feeding tube reinserted, an action her husband has opposed. The case has ignited a national debate concerning what measure ethically should be taken to prolong the lives of individuals who aren’t able to make their own wishes known.
“Simple planning and communication may help ease the burden of family members if they are ever faced with decisions about your fate,” Crocker said.
“I’m all of 26 years old, but have had these documents in place since I left home to go to college,” he said. “I have made my wishes known to my family regarding organ donation and heroic measures to save my life, but I also want to give them the peace of mind that comes with having a signed document expressing my wishes. It’s never too early.”
The Texas Partnership for End of Life Care, a Texas Department of Health and Human Services program, has several forms and explanations available for download from its Web site at www.txpec.org/whatsnew/texas.asp. These resources are available in English and Spanish.
Out of Hospital Do Not Resuscitate Form Allows a person to state that no resuscitation measures should be used if breathing stops or if the heart stops beating.
Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates Allows a person to communicate his or her wishes about medical treatment at some time in the future when illness or injury prevents communication of those wishes.
Medical Power of Attorney Allows a person to give another individual the authority to make any and all personal health care decisions.
A link to advanced directive planning forms for other states also is available, Crocker said. That’s because other states might have different regulations and forms.
In addition, healthcare providers or hospitals should have the forms available, Crocker said.
More information and forms on organ donations through the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance are available at www.txorgansharing.org/donor_forms.htm. For information in Spanish, go to http://donevida.org/.