Living Wills Brought to the Forefront in Light of Schiavo Case

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

Rev. Patrick Mahoney leads a group of demonstrators outside the Governor’s Mansion. He’s been at the forefront of efforts to keep Terri Schiavo alive, but like many people, Mahoney himself does not have a living will.

Rev. Patrick Mahoney says, "No, I do not, although obviously my position on this is pretty clear."

But the Schiavo case has sparked a huge interest in living wills, documents that spell out exactly what you want and don’t want done if you are unable to communicate.

At the non-profit Aging with Dignity office, the handful of staffers can’t get their 11-page living wills into the mail fast enough. The agency sends out copies of “Five Wishes,” as well as videos or DVDs to help families talk about the difficult issue, for a small fee.

Aging with Dignity has processed 12,000 Internet and telephone requests for the Five Wishes document in just the past four days.

Paul Malley says Terri Schiavo has had a dramatic impact on people on both sides of the feeding tube debate.

Paul says, "I think this is serving as a wakeup call in saying that this is a conversation for people of all ages. If you’re 18 or older, you need to talk about what’s important to you and to fill out a legally valid document."

If demonstrators have their way, any living will you’ve previously filled out may have to be updated. They want laws in all 50 states barring the removal of feeding tubes unless the patient specifically said in writing they didn’t want one.


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