Doctors and lawyers say the Schiavo case in Florida is a great
example of why every adult should have a living will.
Less than twenty-percent of Americans have one - and most people don't know that creating a living will is a quick, easy and cheap process.
We are going to take you step-by-step through that process right now, so grab a pen and paper.
Says attorney Rich Schulze: "The requirements for a living will is it's in writing, it's signed and dated by the person that's creating it and so it's got to have your name on it and then it's witnessed by two people who are unrelated to you so they would also sign and date their signatures."
When you write your living will, here are some questions you should answer.
If you have a terminal condition where there is no hope of
recovery, what would you like done?
Your answer to that question can be a firm . . . no artificial
life support or prolong your life as much as possible. Or you can decide you want something in between and spell out specifically what that is.
It's also a good idea to decide whether you want to be an organ donor.
If you do, you can specify if you want your organs used for medical or educational purposes. And you actually specify which organs you want to donate if you don't want to donate your entire body.
You can also designate someone to make health care decisions for you if you can't make them on your own. And it's a good idea to pick an alternative person if your first choice is unable to serve.
Then it's time to decide if there are any health care decisions you don't want your surrogate to make. You can even give your surrogate control over your remains and any autopsy decisions.
Finally, it's a good idea to include a sentence that says you would like to protect the people who carry out your wishes from liability as long as they do so in good faith.
If this sounds too confusing, you can always work with an attorney or most hospitals and doctor's offices have living will forms that you can pick-up for free.
Once you have it completed though, what do you do with it?
"There's a number of services who will reduce it to a credit card size so you can keep it in your wallet or there's a company we use called docubank," says Schulze. "It is a nationwide repository and they give you a little card with a password on it and anywhere you are in the U.S. they can dial that number and get a copy of the will delivered
If you are interested in creating a living will on-line or downloading the forms or you would like to register your living will with a document service, we have set up a number of links on our website for you. Go to the "links" page on this Web site.
Lawyers say it's important to understand the meaning of the words you include in your living will - for example "vegetative state" means something different than "coma" . . . so if you don't understand exactly what you're writing, you should get some advice or have an attorney look it over for you.