We Should All Have a Living Will
Reader Jon Keen writes:
You mentioned in the Schiavo case, that "no state would let her die, even if she wanted to (it's called suicide)." It seems to me that any one of us can refuse medical help and the state is required to respect our wishes, in many cases suicide is not the term it is freedom of choice. I can envision a lot of scenarios, none of them pleasant, where my Medical Living will would kick in. I think I probably consider this a more pressing matter, a living will, because of the job that I am in [note: Jon is serving in the Air Force], but it can happen to any one of us in any circumstance. We spend huge amounts of money as a society each year on medical patients in declining health, a fair amount no longer capable of making the decisions themselves. I have heard that it is our largest health expenditure. Why not educate ourselves and make the decision before we are incapable, a simple living will, a short process would have solved all questions on her wishes in this situation. I would urge you to mention this to your readers before they are left without the capacity to choose. Hopefully none of us will be in that situation, but you should take the hour or so to make your requests known.
The Yellow Line Responds:
I agree that we should all have a living will. I don't think we are obligated by morality or religion to "live" in a persistent vegetative state (or have any heroic acts of medicine performed) if that's not our wish. But some people wouldn't choose death under any circumstance.
Since we can't know Schiavo's wishes and since I don't think we can measure the worthiness of another person's life, I would prefer to err on the side of life. The courts have to err on the side of the law--because Shiavo's husband legally has the right to speak for her. I would support changing the law for cases when there is no living will. A spouse’s choice should not completely negate the wishes of parents (or children) willing to care for their incapacitated relative.
UPDATE: Here's a good article on making a living will. And Here's another one.