In 2006 I posted at my old website what I learned of the dangers of living wills. The Internet archive went down for a short time today, so I decided I had better provide another posting of the information I provided in the essay Fair Warning: The Latest from the Florida Death Machine; Post Modernism and Legal Practice. For reasons unknown, the webarchive.org link "Please read this and return" failed to retrieve. The form has been re-uploaded from my own archive and posted as a separate blog page.
Living wills became quite the rage as the Terri Schiavo debacle unfolded. The Florida legislature and the Florida bar dutifully honed a generic form for living wills acceptable to state law.
For the uninitiated and unwary, however, there is a wrinkle here. It appears that these hoary bodies are very well staffed by postmodernists. In short, what that means is that once commonly understood medical practice has attained a new, practical (not to say jaundiced), patina.
I am sharing with my readers the troubling form that was offered my mother shortly after my father's passing. It made me wonder how many others receive and are pressed to sign this legal form without giving much thought to the consequences. Especially were it presented to them at a time when they, too, are most distraught and vulnerable.
In any event, for those of you who, like me, detest each new wrinkle being foisted upon us in this life discarding post-modern age, I expect you will promote this warning widely.
I am not going to argue for or against living wills here. I am far more interested in bringing to public attention something I find unconscionable to keep to myself. Please read this and return.
Quite simply, this form's wording would permit complete strangers to prevent life-saving measures from being provided to the signer of this document. It would legally overrule everyone who actually loves and has an interest in protecting the patient. Should a family member or family physician protest, it would not matter. The standard form legally takes away all authority from them.
Example: You are in a car accident and wind up in a coma.
Attending doctor: “I don't think she'll survive. Better to withhold oxygen.”
Attending doctor's colleague: “I concur.”
Attending doctor to your husband: “Sorry, but it's what we think. Now even though your wife never knew me or our emergency room, she agreed to abide our opinion. Legally. Buh-bye.”
A Solution: I advised my mother that if she still wanted a living will, it would be wisest to add the wording
“and with unanimous consent of my children”
to the consent to withhold life-prolonging measures.
Even then, in the state of Florida, I would be worried about telling an unknown provider of medical services that a living will existed until I had the customized copy in my hands to shove in his face.
Otherwise you might hear: “Oh, I'm sorry. I heard living will and naturally thought they were all the same. Buh-bye.”