Avoid the Terry Schiavo Dilemma: Make Sure Your Estate Is in Order

Nancy B. Alston

If you were at least somewhat aware of the world in the early 2000’s, you will probably recall the Terri Schiavo case. You’ll remember this was an ordeal about fight between a husband and the wife’s parents about who had to right to decided what should happen to Terri, who was in a persistent vegetative state.

Here is just a brief synopsis to bring you up to speed. Terri was married to Michael Schiavo, they lived in Florida. At age 26, Terri collapsed and her brain was deprived of oxygen long enough to cause her brain damage and leave her into what is called a “persistent vegetative state”, this isn’t the same thing as brain dead, Terri could breathe on her one, but besides breathing she was essentially incapable of thought, emotion, or significant bodily movements. After her death, doctor’s concluded that she had significant amount of irreversible brain damage.

The issue that took this sad private situation and made it a national headline which consumed the news and everyone watching was the fight between Michael, Terri’s husband and Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler. Michael had cared for and dealt with Terri’s treatment since 1990, he decided some 10 years later that Terri’s recovery was not realistic and he sought to have his wife taken of what was essentially life support. Terri’s parent fought this, and waged a very public fight to try and ensure their daughter would remain on life support. Thus the legal battle ensued.

Dr. Timothy E. Quill, in The New England Journal of Medicine wrote a fabulous article about the medical, ethical and some legal issues regarding Terry’s case, you and read it here: A Tragedy Compounded

As you investigate the story of Terri Schiavo and the heartache experienced by those who loved her most, and the nation as a whole, you will better understand what the simple and easy solution could have been. If Terri had at some point prior to her collapse put into effect an “Advanced Medical Directive” with corresponding Power of Attorney, the whole mess could have been avoided. Terri would have been able to state what her desire was if something happened to her and what she wanted done, thus eliminating the fight which inevitable arises when deep emotional bonds are perceived to be lost when a loved on dies.

An experienced attorney can help you better deal with hard decisions and situations by making sure you affairs are in order before the need arises. Everyone over the age of 21, and especially those who are married and those who have children should have at the very least, a simple will, coupled with an Advanced Medical Directive so an ordeal like that of Terri Schiavo doesn’t happen to you or your loved ones.

Also check out this short documentary on the Terri Schiavo case: http://nyti.ms/1iC7a7x

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