At Dean's Journal, Dean posts about Terri Schiavo specifically (the woman from Florida in a coma) and about living wills in general. Dean admonishes us:
While I have prepared such documents for clients, I now find myself advising new clients to be very careful about what you wish for. A living will might seem like a good idea to a healthy 50 year old, but your thoughts could easily change, as your circumstances change.
Certainly sensible advice, Dean.
I might add, however, that we should all be respectful of one another's private beliefs and wishes for their own lives. Personally, I think that all people ought to complete their own living will at around age 18 or 21. Though the odds of anyone that young requiring their physicians and loved ones to know the specifics of that with which a living will covers - we need only to look to poor Ms. Schiavo to see that it sometimes is necessary. Surely at least some of what has occurred since Ms. Schiavo's tragedy might well have been avoided with a living will.
Would someone see the world in a different light at age 45, say, than they would at 21? Surely it could be the case. Thus, even if we all had living wills, it could be judicious for us to review them every five or ten years, to make certain that what directions we had left at one time in our life still corresponded to our present beliefs about life, death and medical care.
Since I feel as if it is difficult to know the "real" facts behind Ms. Schiavo's case, I dislike commenting about it. I will say, however, that I do think when it comes to extreme situations about one's own health, each of us should be allowed to make our own decisions, assuming, of course, that we are mentally competent.
While one individual may wish to receive palliative care "forever" - another may, under certain circumstances, clearly wish "the plug" to be pulled. Though a "care" person may view a "plug" person with little understanding - and vice versa - we should respect each other. Just as each of us has our own religious beliefs - or none whatsoever - each of us can have particular views about life and death.
Is it possible that someone might take advantage of us, when in a diminished state? Sure. That's why any directive should be exceptionally specific, to avoid as much of that as possible. And, the writer of any living will should remember that nothing functions perfectly; not even a living will.
But at least give people the opportunity to weigh all, and come to their own decisions.