Friday, March 31, 2006

Terri Schiavo - Anniversary of Death

Just a reminder as I am sure many of you in the Palliative Medicine community are aware that today marks the anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo. Here are links to previous Pallimed posts on the issue (here, here, here, here and here).

Besides both sides of Terri's families making some public statements, and getting ready for book releases (here and here) telling their side of the story, there is not much new to say on the subject.

The important public health issue out of all of this should be to make sure you have a living will and health care power of attorney and that you have talked with multiple friends and family about your wishes should you become incapacitated. I have done mine, but just stumbled across the US Living Will Registry as a place to store it electronically. I will look into the site and report back on it later. Have not heard much about it in the press or medical literature.

Last year, I had an idea that instead of making laws about withholding and withdrawing, etc, was to have every major newspaper on March 31st publish a blank living will document/health care power of attorney document appropriate for their state with guidelines on how to fill it out and talk with families about it, plus contacts for resources. I just don't know how to start making that happen.

The important palliative medicine issue is that we strive to make sure these very complex issues do not get too simplified or misunderstood and that we make sure to have engaging talks with our families and patients about these very real and tough decisions that come from the benefits of our modern medical technology.


Disclaimer: Since this is a sensitive subject for some, I have to reiterate these are my personal views (not my current or former employers) and that the Schiavo case was a very sad case for many reasons and that my goal in medicine is to avoid such things from happening and give patient centered-care with support of family and friends.

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