Recent news has drawn the attention of the news media and the political cognoscenti to the great state of Texas, where a local judge has ordered a hospital to untether a young mother from life support, despite the fact that she is carrying a child into the third trimester of pregnancy. While the implications of this decision are enormous as a matter of Texas law, the effects in Florida are only a matter of casual conversation. This news item is instructive, however, of our own similar story of national attention; recall the regrettable tale of Terri Schiavo, the St. Petersburg area woman who was caught between her parents and her husband in a battle to determine her post-mortem directives.
The crisis, you will recall, came to a head in mid-2005 when the utterly forgettable then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist came down to Florida to visit with Ms. Schiavo. I use the word “visit” in the loosest sense of the word, because Ms. Schiavo was deemed by her physicians to be in a persistent vegetative state, kept alive only by artificial ventilation and nutrition. Perhaps incredibly, Senator Frist stated categorically that Ms. Schiavo was “alive” and that he could perceive something of her consciousness by looking into her eyes. The crux of the conflict was between her parents, who wanted her alive, however artificially, and her husband, who wanted her to die naturally. The reason this nightmare scenario even came to pass was because of the unfortunate timing of her passing.
Terri Schiavo was the victim of a complete cardiac shutdown in 1990 that put her in a coma and kept her in that persistent vegetative state when she was a mere 27 years old. Like most 27-year-olds, Terri did not have any written plans regarding the disposition of her health and assets in the event that she died or was near death. She designated no health care surrogate. She had no living will. She didn’t grant anyone power of attorney. She had no last will and testament. From the time her husband filed his petition to terminate her life until she finally passed away, seven years had elapsed, owing to the numerous petitions filed in state and federal court. Had she validly executed health care directive paperwork, her tragic personal story would not have become a years-long legal fiasco. The Reed Law Firm is happy to take on the important task of handling your “end-of-life” preparation, even if your end-of-life seems quite far off into the future. When we consider the story of Terri Schiavo, it is important to remember another favorite adage: “There’s nothing gained from putting off till tomorrow that which you can do today.”
*Quote attributed to George Santayana