Living Wills

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The debate over Terri Schiavo's life may have been avoided with one simple document of a living will. Only about 20 percent of us have one, but the Schiavo case is sparking interest in advance medical directions.

Terri Schiavo's parents fight to keep her alive, but her husband argues she never wanted to live this way.

It's a battle that's worked its way through our courts, the floors of Congress, and all the way to the White House, but most agree the Schiavo debate may have been avoided by a living will.

"Those documents specifically explain what your intentions are if you have to have life sustaining treatment," says attorney Dennis McDougall.

It’s basically directions on what medical interventions we want or don't want should a health emergency arise. We can also designate a person to act on our behalf.

McDougall says there's been a spike in the number of people inquiring about living wills. He says it may be the most important lesson we learn from the Schiavo case.

"This fight has cost the family a lot of heartache and pain. It has cost the state of Florida a lot of money, and now it's cost all of us money and it could've easily been avoided if she had her wishes in writing."

The process is simple: fill out a one page document, have a witness sign it and get it notarized. You don't need an attorney, and most likely it'll be free.

For more information on living wills, just visit the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization website at You can order forms by e-mail or by calling 800-658-8898.