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Will to Live Project
THE WILL TO LIVE (pro-life living will) is a legal document that can help protect you and those you love when you cannot speak for yourselves.
THE WILL TO LIVE protects your own life and the lives of
your family members when you cannot speak for yourselves
Names someone you trust to safeguard your life when you cannot speak for yourself as your "health care agent"
- Names backup agents if your first choice can't serve
- Describes the treatment you do and do not want to guide your health care agent and physicians
- Protects your family and health care agent from pressure from health care providers and others by allowing them to prove what you really did want
- Relieves the agony of decision making for them by making your wishes clear
What is the Will to Live?
The Will to Live is a legal document that you can sign which:
- Names someone to make health care decisions for you (your "heath care agent') if you develop a condition that makes it impossible for you to speak for yourself (become "incompetent"), and
- Makes clear (in the form of written instructions to your health care agent) what medical treatment you would want if you can no longer speak for yourself.
Free Legal Help With the Will to Live
While you may be able to complete the "Will to Live" advance directive on your own, if you feel the need for legal advice in doing so, volunteer attorneys working with the Alliance Defense Fund are willing, free of charge, to help you make your health care wishes legally clear. If you have any questions concerning your advance directive, we urge you to seek proper legal counsel.
To be connected with an attorney in your state, click here.
Questions and Answers on the Will to Live
Why Not Sign a Living Will Instead of the Will to Live
Why the Need for a "Will to Live"?
COMMENTARY: CASE POINTS UP URGENCY OF WILL TO LIVE
By Burke J. Balch, J.D., director of NRLC Dep't of Medical Ethics
It is evident from e-mails and other communications coming in to NRLC's Department of Medical Ethics that many grass-roots pro-lifers are shocked and appalled by the denial of food and fluids to Terri Schindler-Schiavo. Apparently, they cannot believe this is happening in America.
It is appropriate to be appalled, but no one should be shocked.
Denial of food and fluids to people who cannot speak for themselves has been going on for fifteen years in this country. It is routine practice in hospitals and nursing homes across the country. And for over a decade, the law on this, established by numerous court decisions and statutes, has been largely settled. If someone who is now incompetent to make health care decisions has not left clear instructions in a legal document (variously called an "advance directive," "durable power of attorney for health care," "living will," or the like), then a surrogate decision-maker can legally decide to cut off the person's food and fluids.
The surrogate decision-maker is normally whomever is classed by the particular state as the closest relative, but if no relatives are available may be a guardian or even the person's doctor. Such surrogates are daily authorizing the cutoff of food and fluids to patients who are unable to speak for themselves and never gave any indication that they might want to be starved.
Only in the comparatively rare cases when there is some dispute among relatives, such as in the Wendland case in California, the earlier Hugh Finn case in Virginia, and the Schindler-Schiavo case now in Florida, do these cases reach public attention, normally in the context of lawsuits.
It should come as no surprise that, with important exceptions, the prevailing view in the judiciary, as in the medical profession, is receptive to the quality of life ethic. Judges are often dismissive of our position that all human beings possess dignity and the right to live, regardless of their age or degree of disability. When the relative or other individual designated by state law to make health care decisions for an incompetent person who has left no clear advance directive chooses to cut off food and fluids, courts are rarely willing to agree with other relatives who seek to overturn that decision.
Indeed, the current battleground is over efforts by health care personnel to cut off food, fluid and life-saving treatments from patients they think have a poor quality of life AGAINST THE WISHES of the patient and family. A large body of medical and ethical opinion holds that even when there is no doubt that a patient wants to live, or when family members are united in saying the patient should get life-saving treatment, doctors and hospitals should be able to say no.
We may hope and pray that recent developments in the Schindler-Schiavo case, drawing into question the accuracy of key testimony by her husband, lead the judicial system to order that she continue to receive assisted feeding. Whatever the final outcome, however, the publicity surrounding this case should sound a warning siren.
It is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT that we ensure our friends and family members fill out a "Will to Live." The Will to Live is a legal document, varying in its form from state to state, that makes clear a person's wishes concerning treatment if no longer able to make health care decisions. It provides for designation of who the person wants to speak on his or her behalf in such circumstances.
PROTECT YOUR FAMILY TODAY! DOWNLOAD YOUR STATE'S "WILL TO LIVE" !
Get the Will to Live New York State File(Prepared by nrtc.org)
Click on and print out New York state file (.pdf)
(Be sure to read both the general and state-specific suggestions before attempting to fill out any Will to Live)
- Euthanasia is the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit.
"... we must be wary of those who are too willing to end the lives of the elderly and the ill. If we ever decide that a poor quality of life justifies ending that life, we have taken a step down a slippery slope that places all of us in danger. There is a difference between allowing nature to take its course and actively assisting death. The call for euthanasia surfaces in our society periodically, as it is doing now under the guise of "death with dignity" or assisted suicide. Euthanasia is a concept, it seems to me, that is in direct conflict with a religious and ethical tradition in which the human race is presented with " a blessing and a curse, life and death," and we are instructed '...therefore, to choose life." I believe 'euthanasia' lies outside the commonly held life-centered values of the West and cannot be allowed without incurring great social and personal tragedy. This is not merely an intellectual conundrum. This issue involves actual human beings at risk..."
-- C. Everett Koop, M.D. **taken from the book KOOP, The Memoirs of America's Family Doctor by C. Everett Koop, M.D., Random House, 1991.
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Case
New York State Right to Life grieves the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo and asks all people to pray for her family and for our country.
NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE “DEEPLY SADDENED”
BY THE DEATH OF TERRI SCHINDLER SCHIAVO
National Right to Life joins with countless others worldwide in expressing sympathy to the Schindler family over the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo. Terri died of starvation and dehydration today, nearly 13 days after her feeding tube was removed under court order. The following statement may be attributed to Burke Balch, J.D., Director of the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics at the National Right to Life Committee:
“We are deeply saddened by Terri’s death and extend our heartfelt sympathy to the Schindler family. Terri Schiavo’s death is a gross injustice and it marks a sad day in our history when our society allows Terri and others like her who have severe disabilities to be discarded in such a cruel and inhumane manner.
We must redouble our efforts to protect those with disabilities. We will continue working to ensure that they are not dismissed by some “quality of life” standard which dictates that some lives are less worthy than others.
National Right to Life is promoting a pro-life living will called the ‘Will to Live’ for those who wish to make sure they are not put to death by starvation and dehydration. It is important to recognize that many standard living will forms are written to reject food and fluids, not to insist on them and we encourage people to consider signing a pro-life living will.”