For many young adults, drafting an advance health care directive is the last thing on their minds. Many of us, at some point or another, have thought about what we would want the doctors to do in case we are in a coma or a vegetated state. Some of us would want to be kept alive through artificial life support, some would prefer to let nature take its course while others would rather leave the decision to their families. Whatever their wishes might be, most young adults do not make their decisions official through proper estate planning. The main goal of an advance health care directive is to allow us to disclose our health care wishes in case we are incapacitated and designate a trusted family member or a friend to carry out our health care decisions if we are ever unable to speak for ourselves. This document can be tailored to meet each individual’s needs and circumstances. For instance, individuals who have disabilities might need an advance health care directive that addresses their unique needs and treatment wishes or some individuals might want additional protection for not prolonging their lives and thus they might need a more detailed form that covers various situations.
Most of us have heard of Terri Shiavo. For those who don’t remember, she was the young woman who spend the last 15 years of her life in a vegetated state. After deciding that her condition was hopeless, her husband petitioned the court to have her feeding tube removed. Her parents, on the other hand, fought hard against the husband arguing that there was still hope. The court decided that Terri would not wish to continue life prolonging measures and therefore her feeding tube was removed. Her parents appealed her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Court refused to hear their appeal. After many years of legal battle, Terri died after the doctors removed the feeding tube that sustained her for more than a decade. This case sparked a national right-to-die debate and compelled many of us to wonder what we would want the doctors to do in such tragic circumstances. If Terri had an advance directive, such a long and difficult legal battle could have been avoided. If you don’t have an advance directive, someone who is not of your choosing will make the most important decision of your life.