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Schiavo Case Heightens Interest in Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For more than a decade, the West Virginia University Center for Health Ethics and Law has encouraged West Virginians to make their wishes about medical care known to relatives and caregivers to prevent confusion in the event they are rendered incapable of expressing themselves.

The case of Terri Schiavo in Florida has caused many people to take this step. Calls to the Center, and requests for materials, have reached a record high in the last week.

Living will and medical power of attorney forms are available from physicians, nursing homes and hospitals, and on the West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care Web site, http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/chel/wvi/ .

A living will is a document that tells your doctor how you want to be treated if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. You can use a living will to tell your doctor you want to avoid life-prolonging interventions such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), kidney dialysis, or breathing machines. You can use a living will to tell your doctor you just want to be pain free and comfortable at the end of life. You may also add other special instructions or limitations.

A medical power of attorney allows you to choose someone else to make health care decisions for you if you are too sick to make them for yourself. Your representative can make any health care decision that you could make if you were able. A medical power of attorney allows you to give specific instructions to your representative about the type of care you would want to receive.

The documents need to be signed, witnessed and notarized to be legally binding. Copies of completed forms should be on file with family members and your personal physician.

For more information, contact the Center for Health Ethics and Law at (877) 209-8086 (toll-free).

- WVU -

For more information:
Bill Case, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087

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