Remember Terri Schiavo from Florida? She was in a vegetative state and her family was fighting over whether to let her go. Her case dragged on and on. With all the publicity surrounding her case, you’d think that we would all have prepared a living will. If you are a Seinfeld fan, who can forget Kramer working up his living will? Remember the lawyer reading off a list of awful conditions and Kramer and Elaine deciding whether to pull the plug – ouch. So, where is your living will? Most of us have still not prepared a Health Care Directive (that’s the official name for a living will in Washington).
If you have been waiting for prices to drop, wait no more. You can go to the Washington State Living Will Registry at http://www.doh.wa.gov/livingwill/default.htm where you can download a living will form for free. Once you get to the main page, click on “How to Register” on the left. In Step 1, just click on Health Care Directive, print the form, carefully print your name and the other details, and you’ll have your very own living will. The hardest question you will have to answer is whether you do or do not want artificially provided nutrition and hydration (number 3 in the document). This is the Terri Schiavo issue. Think this over carefully, discuss it with your family and friends, and then do it. By the way, when you go to sign your living will, be sure that the two witnesses are qualified. Read the language above the signature lines for the witnesses and you’ll find that you must have disinterested unrelated non-health care related witnesses. Be sure the witnesses meet the requirements set out in the document.
Now, while you’re at the Registry, notice that you can register your completed living will and your durable power of attorney for health care (a form is also available for free). If you register your health care documents, they will be easy for someone to find them when (and if) they are needed. What a great idea, actually being able to find the documents when they are needed.
If you are still trying to think through the issues and how you want to be treated if you are in trouble health-wise and not able to communicate effectively, you may want to check out the Five Wishes document at http://www.agingwithdignity.org/. It is worthwhile exercise and you can get a copy for about $5.00 or so.