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Gierach and Gierach, P.A Gierach and Gierach
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Terri Schiavo’s Story of Starving to Death Highlights How Important Designating a Health Care Surrogate Is While You Are Still Healthy


One notorious story here in Florida that occurred years ago is a powerful reminder of just why it is so important for us to designate a healthcare surrogate. The story is that of Terri Schiavo who, at the age of 26, experienced a debilitating severe brain injury and, without a medical directive, was left with her husband to be her medical caretaker; who would decide what type of care she would receive. Sadly, Terry’s husband successful petitioned a Florida court for consent to remove Terry’s feeding tube, while Terry’s family had to sit by and watch her slowly die over a two-week period.

When  The Decision Is Taken Away From You

Given that, every year, more than one million Americans experience a brain injury and these injuries are now leading cause of death and disability in our country, it is clear why designating who is going to make competent medical decisions for you in the case of debilitation is so very important. Terri’s story, in particular, highlights just how important it is to document who is going to care for you in case you become incapacitated. Without an advanced medical directive specifying your chosen instructions and who you want to convey those instructions—i.e. a health care surrogate—you completely lose control over what will happen to you. While, sometimes having that power automatically handed over to a family member or spouse by the courts is fine, in the worst case scenario, patients can be subject to horrific medical decisions. 

When The Decision Is Left Up to The Hospital

In fact, in some instances, hospitals are in power to decide what the treatment will be continued or stopped under the “futile care theory.” Under this system, doctors and others sometimes have the final say about a patient’s care. This occurs when the medical experts themselves determine that a patient’s quality-of-life is simply too low to justify the cost of treatment and/or to continue allowing them to live.

Why Designating A Health Care Surrogate Is Essential

Executing a health-care power of attorney could help safeguard patient access to treatment, including the basics, such as food and water, as well as other appropriate provisions. In circumstances where a patient has stated in writing what they want and designated a surrogate to carry out those wishes, it is considerably harder to impose futile care on someone. The only way to ensure that you are protected is to work with and estate planning attorney to put in place health care power of attorney document. 

Contact Our Florida Estate Planning Attorneys to Find Out More

Our Orlando healthcare proxy attorneys can help you ensure that you are protected in the event of mental and/or physical incapacitation. Contact us today at the office of Gierach and Gierach, P.A. to find out more about our services.


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