Thursday, February 24, 2005

Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best

Newsday columnist Mike Thomas talks about Terri Schiavo better than I can. The story is incredibly sad, but the legal battles just brought home the reality of just how important it is to make sure those you leave behind know exactly what you want.

The idea of preparing a last will and testament as well as a living will freaks the heck out of me. That's not something someone my age does, but now that I have two pennies to rub together, I need to make sure the state doesn't get all of the mullah. I also want my family to know exactly what my wishes are if I am unfortunate enough to end up like Terri Schiavo. You have to let those who have your best interests at heart know what you want -- whether it's letting you die if you are so severely incapacitated there is no quality of life or desiring all measures taken to keep you alive, regardless of quality of life; you can't assume those who love you know or even can make these difficult and emotional decisions. In fact, it's probably even best to designate ahead of time that person who will make these kinds of decisions for you, so you don't end up stuck between two warring parties.

No one wants to think about death or dying. No one wants to think about what happens if the only quality of life is sustained by machines. Nor do you want to be the one sitting at a bedside wondering what your loved would have wanted. It's not enough to verbally tell someone; you have to write it down, get it witnessed, and then make multiple copies and distribute. I'm not sure Terri Schiavo would have ever intended for her life to be turned into some kind of rallying cry from both the right-to-die and the right-to-life crowds; what she probably would have wanted most is the dignity that both sides have denied her.

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