March 31, 2005

All I'll Say About Schiavo

I haven't said much about the Schiavo matter, because I strongly believe that it is none of our damn business. This cartoon pretty well sums up my thoughts and feelings on the politics involved in this.

Stephen Green, Timothy Sandefur, and, surprise of surprises, John Derbyshire, all approach the issue much like I would, so I point you to their thoughtful opinions on this, too.

Just as an aside, my wife and I both have wills and medical powers of attorney, which we prepared a couple of years ago. I plan to pull out the powers of attorney to make sure they still say what we want. I'm pretty sure they address specifically the issue of withholding extraordinary care, including feeding tubes and hydration. But we have also given each other a fair amount of discretion to try what is reasonable (like what Michael Schiavo did for about three years) while granting each other the final say to consent to discontinuing treatment.

If you plan to write an advance healthcare directive or power of attorney as a result of this mess, I would recommend the same approach. Be careful not to be too specific.(*) What I mean is that in addition to granting certain explicit instructions (for the most foreseeable situation), be sure to include a general blanket authority to the person you want to speak for you. If you are married, after the Schiavo case, you cannot count on your spouse presumptively having that power anymore. (Way to strengthen the institution of marriage, conservatives!) If you want your parents or kids or siblings to have input, say so. Having written it down, be sure to discuss it, too. If there is one good thing to come out of this mess, it's that we are all talking about a topic we usually avoid. Take advantage of this moment to get your opinions expressed and memorialized.

(*)Usual caveat applies: I am an attorney, but not your attorney. You should discuss the terms of any legal documents (including without limitation advance healthcare directives or powers of attorney mentioned above) with a qualified lawyer of your own choosing before signing them. My general comments are intended to focus you on some issues that I myself have discussed that I think are relevant to planning.

That's all I plan to say on this.

Update: She (what's left of her) has passed away. May she rest in peace.

Posted by JohnL at March 31, 2005 08:00 AM

Good post and, as one attorney to another, nice caveat. This is something my wife and I have been kicking around a little bit of late. I still don't believe I have the best sense as to what she wants or what I want but that probably means I just don't really know what I'd want done for me in this situation.

Posted by: RP at March 31, 2005 01:02 PM

I didn't want to post about her either, but ended up with about three. Seems I just can't get away from her. . . and she's in a frigging BED!

Posted by: KurtP at April 1, 2005 09:09 PM
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