The importance of a living will: In the wintry season of 1963, on December 3, Mary and Robert Schindler welcomed a beautiful baby girl named Theresa Marie, fondly known as Terri. Growing up in Pennsylvania, she enjoyed a normal childhood filled with playtimes with her siblings and pets and exploring her passion for music and art sketching. As she blossomed into adulthood, Terri tied the knot with Michael Schiavo in November 1984, a few days short of her twenty-first birthday. Settled in Florida with her spouse and engaged in a job she cherished, Terri’s life seemed near perfect until she turned twenty-nine.
In February 1990, a tragic twist shattered her picturesque life, leaving lasting ripples through the hearts of those who adored her. Terri suffered a massive heart attack at home, which led to a severe oxygen deprivation to her brain. Consequently, she slipped into a persistent vegetative state from which she never recovered.
When such heartrending circumstances arise, knowing the afflicted person’s wishes is essential to honor them accordingly. However, when there’s no explicit directive, the situation becomes progressively more entangled and becomes a legal and emotional labyrinth. In Terri’s case, her husband and parents initially co-existed harmoniously, even sharing a home during the initial years of her care. Yet, their bond began to crumble, culminating in a bitter court battle by 1998. Michael sought legal permission to remove Terri’s feeding tube, arguing she wouldn’t have desired a prolonged life in a vegetative state. On the other hand, her parents fervently wished to keep her alive.
This intense legal confrontation endured for several years. Terri’s feeding tube was removed on October 15, 2003, per a court order obtained by Michael. Yet, Terri’s parents managed to convince the Florida legislature and Governor to pass a bill permitting the Governor to reverse the court’s decision. Merely six days post-removal, Terri’s feeding tube was reinserted, and the relentless legal battle persisted, further fueling the discord between the two parties.
While it’s uncertain if Terri’s medical condition was preventable, the consequent fallout was decidedly avoidable. By having an Advance Health Care Directive, also known as a “Living Will,” Terri could have expressed her preferences regarding life-sustaining measures. Such a document could have spared her loved ones, parents, and husband from years of intense and emotionally draining conflict.
The McGee Law Firm can guide you in preparing an Advance Health Care Directive, preventing you from inadvertently becoming the catalyst of a bitter dispute among your cherished ones.
From the desk of Attorney Brandon McGee