Communicating final decisions . . .

I’ve written several times in the past about the importance of making an Advanced Directive or a Living Will, or both, for the purpose of controlling your last life decisions. Ever since the USA case of Teri Schiavo, (my apologies if I misspelled her name) it has been obvious that clearly communicating your plan for the end of your life is of paramount importance.

I already have a legally binding Living Will, and another legally binding Advanced Directive. But, I’m choosing to take the entire matter one step farther. I’m getting a tattoo in the center of my chest that will read “NHM – see medical alert bracelet”. The medical alert bracelet has digital copies of both the Living Will and the Advanced Directive on a flash drive contained within it, and the NHM stands for “No Heroic Measures”. As far as I can tell, this is the final step in making absolutely certain that ALL first responders will know exactly what my wishes are.

The whole point of this is to prevent the first responders (EMT’s, paramedics, Law Enforcement personnel, and other people who might initiate life-saving actions) from taking actions that may result in bankrupting my wife if I’m involved in a catastrophic event of any kind.

Yes, I want to live – but not so much that I want to live with the assistance of expensive equipment that can’t guarantee my chance of recovery. My wife’s future is more important than my survival.

Your final moments . . .

I know, I have written before about the importance of writing a living will or an advanced directive.

However, my wife and I recently visited a lawyer to take the official step of setting such ideas in stone.  And I much need to say that I feel the minor expense was very worth the time and hassel.

No baby, even those conceived by rape, has a choice in whether or not they are born.  No person of any age has any choice as to whether or not they are victims of murder. But every person alive has a choice about what conditions they will agree to  about the end of their life.

This is why I am a staunch advocate of Living Wills and Advance Directives.  These are the legally binding ways in which you have the power to tell health care professionalls – esessially those who may try to overrulle your preferred choices, exactly what you want them to do when you have lost the power to make those decisions for yourself.  You get the power to appoint ONLY ONE person, who already knows your preferences, as your  health care decision maker if you are unable to voice your own preferences.  You also get to make legally binding demands that certain types of care are not to be used, especially if they are beyond the financial reach of your immediate family to pay for.  In short, you get to decide, in a legally binding way, how far you are willing to allow a hospital to go in trying to save your life before they are required by law to pull the plug.  This is all about how much fincancial burden I’m willing to force upon my wife before offering her relief and protecting her from bankruptcy over the cost of my care.

I have taken the step of authenticating both a Living Will and an Advanced Directive, for the specific purpose of trying to make certain that my wife will NOT, under any circumstances, be bankrupted by the medical care required if I might meet a less than desired end-of-life situation.  I was very specific about several situations that might realistically happen in which I wanted NO life-saving measures to be used.  I also gave my wife, and as an alternate a very close friend, the power to make end-of-life choices regardging my health care.  They both know and respect my feelings on this matter.

Also, as a co-home-owner and husband, I agreed with my wife that we needed to go to a lawyer and transact a Last Will and Testament.  This is not because I feel that I may die at any near time, but rather because I believe it is better to be prepared in advance than to be caught off guard. It’s a relic of when I was in the Boy Scouts – more than 40 years ago.

Remember Teri Schiavo?

Who can forget the media/medical/legislative circus that surrounded Terri Schiavo’s last days and weeks? Certainly not me. No matter which side of the debate you were on, the one certain fact was that NOBODY was sitting on the fence.

Would you want to be the center of a circus like that if you were in the same condition she was in? I know I wouldn’t. So, here is how you can take a very simple action to put the circus on the road to somewhere else:

No matter what you want your living will to stipulate, once you’ve registered it, nobody can overrule your choices but you. If you believe in the sanctity of life, and want artificial life support to continue until the electric company declares bankruptcy from supporting you, so be it. If you want to designate someone to have the authority to make that decision for you if you can’t make it yourself, it’s done. If you want to put it in writing that certain types of life-sustaining treatment are never to be used on you, it’s your choice.

And the Living Will Registry will instantly notify any hospital exactly what your preferences are, if the need arises. End of debate.

Make your will known – today. Don’t wait for tomorrow, you don’t know what might happen. Remember, Terri Schiavo was perfectly healthy when her heart stopped beating, just long enough to induce a coma.

Terri Schiavo case bothers me . . .

I can’t believe what’s going on in Florida, or around our country for that matter.

There is a woman in a hospital, who’s doctors have sworn under oath in court that she is in a “persistant vegitative state.” She’s in a coma. She can’t do anything for herself. Even if there is any brain function, she is totally cut off from everyone around her.

To boil it all down, her husband says that she repeatedly expressed that she did NOT want to be kept alive artificially. It would seem that her parents know this and agree that it was her wish, because the only thing I’ve read that they say on that subject is that, if she’d been awake to hear a statement from the Vatican on patient rights (which was issued several years after Terri entered her coma) then Terri would have changed her mind. Case closed – Terri did not want this.

Next issue – who gets to decide what is right for Terri? Her parents want that right. Her doctors don’t want it, because of all the notariety that goes with it. The courts are more than happy to intervine “in everyone’s best interests”.

I disagree with them all. I think Terri told us who got to make that decision in the event she couldn’t. She chose Michael Schiavo. You think I’m wrong? Look at her wedding vows – especially the part about “foresaking all others.” That includes her parents, siblings, elected representatives, and politically appointed judges. She sure as HELL didn’t appoint several thousand total strangers connected mostly by the internet as her legal guardians!

On page A3 of the March 14, 2005 edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, there is a picture of 3 ladies from Tennessee who think THEY know what is best for Terri. They are cute ladies. They don’t know shit. For instance, I know that Terri Schiavo’s case has caused my wife to write a living will. I’d bet none of the 3 on page A3 has one. They would rather trust the government to “do what’s right” while believing that the same government should bow to public pressure from total strangers outside it’s jurisdiction if the issue is made emotional enough. How’s that for a contradiction? After all, Terri is in Florida – so why should any Florida official care about the opinions of 3 pretty ladies in Tennessee? Because it’s the right thing to do? Not according to Terri, it isn’t.

Back to my wife’s (Barbara) living will. It wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Terri Schiavo. Barbara wrote it specifically to prevent being in the same situation Terri is in. In her living will, Barbara states specifically that no familly member but me is to have any say in her medical care if she looses the ability to speak for herself. She also specifies that she does not want any form of mechanical or artificial life support if her body is unable to care for itself. She also, legally and specifically, forbids her health care providers (and hopefully also the courts and all others) from giving any credibility to anything said by her mother about Barbara’s health care. Why?

A fair question. It’s because Barbara’s mother has never tried to really know her only daughter. She’s pretended to know her, bemoaned not understanding her, criticized her choices, and more, but she doesn’t know Barbara at all. I have to wonder if the Schindlers in Florida listened as well to Terri Schiavo. I have to wonder if they really understood what was happening when they consented to Terri’s marriage to Michael Schiavo. Did the Schindlers ever try to put their foot down about where Terri and Michael were going to live? Or about which church they would attend services at? Who made those decisions?

I’d be willing to bet that Terri and Michael made them. They probably talked it over with Terri’s parents, and Michael’s parents too. Most of us would. But, I’d also bet that Terri & Michael made those decisions alone. Terri, “foresaking all others,” went with her husband, and did what was best for THEM. Don’t forget – the Schindlers seem to agree that Terri did not want artificial life support. Where did they get any legal say in overturning her wishes? Is this about what is best for Terri – or Mr. & Mrs. Schindler?

Even more importantly – Do Mr. & Mrs. Schindler have the right to tell YOU what is right for you? If they in any way prevail in their efforts to save Terri, they will succeed in overturning 10 years worth of Florida case law that says you have the right to choose whether or not to receive the care they want to force on Terri. So, do they have the right to impose their values on you – or the rest of the society? Does anyone?