End-of-life directives

Monday, March 28, 2005

Springfield News-Leader

Karen Ann Quinlen. Nancy Cruzan. Christine Busalacchi. Terri Schiavo.

The four women never met, but their names are entwined in the tragedy that comes whenever a family's private grief becomes an object of public debate. All four lay in a hospital bed, kept alive by artificial means, unable to communicate, while family, attorneys, judges and politicians argued over what they would have wanted.

It is a hell no family should have to endure. ... There is only pain, highlighted and magnified. ...

Everyone should have an advanced health care directive and durable power of attorney _ especially those who think they are too young to worry about such things.

Quinlen, Cruzan, Busalacchi and Schiavo were all young, vital women when they were incapacitated. None of them expected to end up in the fog of a persistent vegetative state. ...

The term "power of attorney" merely refers to a document in which you appoint a person to act on your behalf. The "durable" means the authority will remain intact after you become incapacitated.

The Missouri Bar provides a form to create the durable power of attorney. You can download it at:


You can pick it up at libraries or order it by writing to Health Care Proxy Form, The Missouri Bar, P.O. Box 119, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0119. (A single copy is free. If you want more than one, the cost is 75 cents per copy.) The form includes common questions and answers to walk you through filling in the form.

... You can decide whether to give your agent the power to withhold or withdraw a feeding tube. You can list life-prolonging procedures you want withheld if there is no reasonable expectation for your recovery.

The choices are not pleasant ones to ponder. ... But ... by creating an advance directive now, you make your preferences clear. You will be treated as you want to be.

And by filling out such a form, you avoid placing your family in the position of having to guess _ and of being second-guessed by people who never knew you. ...

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