No More Terri Schiavos
The case of Terri Schiavo was tragedy from all perspectives. It pitted family member against family member in a fight over what her final wishes would have been. Because Ms. Schiavo did not put her wishes in writing, she became the focal point of one of the ugliest court battles in American history.
Every state recognizes advance directives, which allow patients to state how they want their end-of-life care to be handled. Physicians should routinely ask patients if they have an advance directive. Make it part of your intake process. Put the advance directive in the patient's chart. Take the time to go over the advance directive with the patient. If they do not have an advance directive, encourage them to execute one. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (www.nhpco.org) has model forms for every state available on their website. And if you, as a physician, don't have an advance directive for yourself, take the time now to get one.
Remember, we are all one accident away from not being able to make decisions for ourselves. Let's make sure our families and our health care providers know what we want. No more Terri Schiavos.