Skip to comments.Living Wills: Signing Your Own Death Warrant? A Christian Lawyer’s Perspective
Posted on 08/19/2008 8:50:45 AM PDT by Daniel T. Zanoza
Editors Note: Stephen Bloom is a Christian attorney with more than 20 years experience in private practice. He is a frequent media guest, speaker, and writer on Christianity and the law, a Lecturer in Management and Business at Messiah College, and a Consultant to the United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of Central Pennsylvania. He is a legal columnist for Good News Daily, former host of the "Practical Counsel - Christian Perspective" radio program, and founder of the Estate Planning Council of Cumberland County. Bloom has been actively involved in the leadership of numerous community and ministry organizations, including his church, where he serves as a Certified Lay Speaker. He is a longtime member of the Christian Legal Society.
The signs of confusion are pervasive and troubling. My legal clients ask, Should I carry my Living Will with me, in case Im in an accident while traveling? A major newspaper story laments that too often Living Wills arent available when decisions about life support must be made. Retirement community residents are directed to keep Living Wills taped to their refrigerators, for quick and easy access. Credible stories are told of first responders and emergency room personnel withholding care from patients with Living Wills.
Whats wrong with this picture? ...
(Excerpt) Read more at rffm.typepad.com ...
Monty Python “Bring out your dead “.
You need to have enough that your family will not be destitute if you die.
But it needs to not be so much that you are worth more dead to your family.
So just make sure your living will is written correctly. There, fixed it.
Sorry Danny, Christ didn’t like lawyers much, and neither do I. “Christian” and “attorney” are contradictory, as believers don’t lie without God correcting them, and I don’t see lawyers getting corrected by God...
I have the same issues at my firm (we execute about 250 Directives To Physicians a year, in addition to the other estate planning documents). The question most often asked is whether, if they have this document, the Emergency Department at the hospital won’t treat their injuries if they get in a car accident. We explain (ad nauseum, sometimes) that the election clearly doesn’t apply to emergency situations like that. I have considered adding some language to the statutorily suggested form to that effect.
Christ didn’t like “the teachers of the law”, who twisted scripture. Scripture says nothing that I can find about civil lawyers, other than to submit ourselves to the governing authorities, which would necessarily mean we can avail ourselves of civil representation. I’m a sold out, born-again believer in my Lord, Jesus Christ, and a lawyer. There is no inherent conflict between the two; in fact, I’ve seen Christian attorney-mediators succeed where all others fail.
As to the article itself, it would be absurd to withhold ER care or roadside care to someone because he/she had a Living Will (Directive to Physicians). The document is quite clear as to when extraordinary health care procedures are to terminate -- and it clearly does not apply to any emergency situation or an accident scene.
This smells of a lawyer whose probate earnings have taken a hit in recent years.
Yes, the documents are clear. Unfortunately, minds can be fuzzy and many seem to be making their own independent (and incorrect) assumptions about what the documents mean.
There are solutions to a number of concerns. To the cold-blooded (Hollandesque) scenario for instance, adding safety language to the discretion given to the attending doctor’s is offered here: http://www.pascalfervor.com/Commentary/Deadly_Living_Wills.html
I'm sure there are misconceptions among the general public, but I can't believe EMT's and ER personnel are not trained in this simple area.
I'll put it this way-- if some ER Doctor ordered "no resuscitation" because somebody told him the patient had a Living Will, then I would love to handle that lawsuit.
For just a random taste of the serious confusion on the ground among paramedics, sample this posting and the comments on a paramedic blog:
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Having a living will is an invitation for a hospital or nursing home to neglect you to death.
Please...let's not me so narrow minded. That's not the case...and I know it.
Me = be
Are you on the legal end or the medical end.
Being on the medical end, I’ve seen it happen over and over.
It is swept under the rug but it is very much common knowledge.
Most states in wrongful death or malpractice cases where there is a death base judgments on Years of life and earning potential.
If an elderly person winds up dead through neglect they aren’t worth a dime .
For a lawyer there is more money in a bed sore than in the death of an elderly person.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. The problem is correctly written living wills being wrongly applied.
Exactly. That's the point of confusion.
A “Will to Live” is better than a “Living Will” and can be downloaded to be used, or just used as an example, from www.nrlc.org.
You have to be very careful with “living wills.”
“I don’t want to be on a respirator,” it could mean one thing if it would only prolong an imminent death for months or years, and another thing if it would only be needed for 48 or more hours after an accident, and one could be restored to normal health.
Good advice, Sun.
What we see is people who pay off their houses and think, at least I can give my house to my kids. Then they go into government medical care and the kids get the bill when they die. Kids usually sell the house to pay it off.
Exactly. My parents never sued anyone - never even considered it - but in the end, they wanted to sue for surgery-gone-wrong that ruined my father's chances to live. Cases for the exact same surgery gone-wrong had been fought and won in the courts, but those patients were younger. Not one lawyer would take my father's case. They told my mother straight-out: They were refusing the case because they wouldn't make enough money on a patient who was "too old." And the surgeons and doctors know the lawyers will refuse those cases.
I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that...Johnny Cochran and OJ Simpson come to mind.
But the 2nd part is spot on.
I find the opposite is true....around here anyway (Atlanta), even if you have a DNR and so much as sneeze, they call 9-11. Alot of people here want hospice for their relatives so they won’t wind up in the ER all the time against their will.
Again here's what you said:
Having a living will is an invitation for a hospital or nursing home to neglect you to death.
A living will or advanced directive can say many different things...so my statement stands.
And personally I haven't seen people get neglected because they had one.
My treatment is the same...UNLESS they have specifically directed their care to NOT have certain things done to them..ie: No PEG, no TPN, no intubation, no CPR....etc..etc..
But, just because someone is a DNR...doesn't mean we don't "do" everything else.
Yes, I know some health care workers think a bit like that....but they are in error.
From the MD perspective..You have a relationship with a patient. You have explored the wishes of a patient with regard to ordinary and extra ordinary care.
On the other end of things is reality. The population of nurses is getting older. The number of nurses that know intrinsically and morally that DNR is not equal to no care is diminishing daily.
It has been 30 plus years since Rowe/v Wade. The nurses replacing the old timers have been acculturated into some lives being expendable.
When I was in nursing supervision, I had to snatch a few young nurses aside for little talks. One in particular announced when walking into the unit..”What is this DNR doing in my unit, get them out of here”.
The problem is not the orders...The problem is the attitude.
I have seen it more times than I can count...Early signs of CHF are ignored, unless you have a family member out at the desk being a squeaky wheel, the doctor doesn't get called.
SVT gets ignored. Someone gets a dose of pain meds instead of calling the doctor when there is chest pain.
I agree that the concept of “No care” is a grave error but the battle over attitude has already been lost.
I testified in front of a State Legislature commission a number of years ago on elder issues. The whole day was filled with back to back stories of elder neglect in hospitals and the DNR issue came up over and over.
It's the law of unintended consequences and it has had and will continue to have an impact.
Exactly. The life of an elderly person is worth about as much as a fetus.
That being said...I've worked with many bed-side healthcare professionals that wouldn't know a patient in distress...if their life depended on it. But this didn't have anything to do with the patients code status. More to lack of education and/or mentoring after formal education. And frankly probably laziness too...
ALL that said.....I always advocate a family member or a friend to be with ANY patient in ANY hospital. I don't care if it's the Mayo Clinic, or Loma Linda University Hospital, or any fairly well respected facility.
There are idiot doctors, idiot allied health workers, and idiot nurses everywhere..........
I’m glad that your experiences have been good ones.