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Avoiding the Terri Schaivo Case – The Oklahoma Advance Directive

???????????????????????????????????????????????One of the most prominent cases of Living Wills or Advance Directives was the Terri Schaivo case in the early 2000s. It is prominent for Living Wills, in that Terri Schaivo did not have one, and her situation caused a legal battle that lasted years and costed thousands of dollars for her family.

In this case, there was a emotional and nationally-known legal battle in Florida over whether a woman, Terri Schaivo, would be kept alive through treatment of artificial food and water, or would pass away from the disuse of the treatment.  If you remember, her husband, who was still legally married to her but estranged from her family, wanted her to pass away, but her family wanted her to remain alive through the artificial means.  Since Terri Schaivo did not have a Living Will that told her family and husband what her wishes were, her family and spouse went through ten years of litigation, one-hundred thousand ($100,000) of dollars in legal fees, and endless pain and frustration for everyone involved.  A Florida court ultimately decided Ms. Schaivo should be allowed to pass away.

Terri Schaivo and her family could have avoided the entire situation if she had a Living Will or Advance Directive in place. Our attorney highly recommends this document since it takes the heart-breaking and agonizing decision away from your family members, and allows you to get your end-of-life wishes. In Oklahoma, there are three situations that the state allows you  to make your end-of-life wishes known. See our previous post about those specific situations here. This document is inexpensive, easy to execute, and could save you and your family money, emotional stress, and it grants you all peace of mind.

If you already have a Living Will in place, see if you need to update it by reading a previous post here.

Call the office of The Skillern Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule a meeting to discuss this document as well as other your other estate planning needs today!

Do You Need to Update Your Advance Directive (Living Will)?

Many clients of the attorneys at Skillern Law Firm, PLLC believe they do not need a new Advance Directive since they had one drafted many years ago. Well, if you got your living will completed before 2006, you may need yours updated.

During the 2006 Legislative Session, the Oklahoma Legislature amended the Oklahoma Advance Directive Act (“the Act”) in response to an Attorney General Opinion.  It became effective on May 17, 2006.The Attorney General’s opinion argued that, in its then old form, the Oklahoma Advance Directive Act was unconstitutional.  Before May of 2006, individuals could only designate refusal of life-sustaining treatment only if they were persistently unconscious (in a vegetative state) or if they were diagnosed with a terminal condition. The old act had no provision to allow people to choose if they want treatment or not if they were diagnosed with an “End-stage Condition.”

The Oklahoma Legislature listened to the Attorney General, and added this category to the statute. Now, individuals can discuss what they would want in an “End-Stage Condition.” An “End-stage Condition” is a condition caused by injury, disease, or illness, which results in severe and permanent deterioration indicated by incompetency and complete physical dependency for which, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, treatment of the irreversible condition would be medically ineffective.  Importantly, this includes Alzheimer’s disease in its late stages.

At the Skillern Law Firm, our updated Advance Directives forms allow you and your spouse to refuse life-sustaining treatment and/or artificial administration of nutrition and hydration, if you so choose. It will allow allow you to designate that you absolutely want all the treatment you can receive.  Whether you choose to refuse life-sustaining treatment or to continue all treatment options, executing a new advance directive should be on your priority list.

If you have not updated your Advance Directive, or have never had one drafted with your desires, contact the offices of Skillern Law Firm, PLLC today. For more reading on what an Advance Directive can do you for, please read a past post all about living wills here.

Living Wills- The Questions to Think About

Today on Tulsa Estate Planning Blog, we will discuss what a living will is, and what medical scenarios it will cover. Let’s get started.

A living will is a legal document which allows a person to make known his/her wishes regarding life-prolonging medical treatments. Living wills are also referred to as advance directives, health care directives, or a physician’s directives. A living will is not a living trust, which is a trust for holding and distributing a person’s assets to avoid probate. It is very important to include a living will in your estate planning documents since it informs your health care providers, as well as your family, of your desires for medical treatment in the event you are not able to make those decisions yourself – like if you were in a coma. Living wills and other advance directives are not only for older adults. Unexpected end-of-life situations can and do occur at any age, so it’s important for all adults to get estate planning, including an advance directive, completed.

Sometimes, clients are surprised on the amount of situations that are included in a living will. A lot of the the questions take some thought and personal reflection to decide on what you would want to happen in the specific given situation. Skillern Law Firm’s living will covers three situations as well as other end-life options.

The first situation that you need to consider is situations where the physician has given you a diagnosis of an terminal, incurable and irreversible condition that will result in death within six (6) months, even when administered life-sustaining treatment. These include fatal cancers, tumors, or any other disease or scenario where you are giving a very short time to live. Your brain can be fully functional, but your body could be in a very poor condition. After considering this question, you would have to choose whether you would want (1) both life-sustaining treatment and artificiality administered food or water, (2) neither treatment nor artificially given food or water (3) only artificially given food and water, but no treatment. You are also allowed to provide your own specific instructions.

The second situation is when you are in a persistently unconscious state that is irreversible, and where the physicians believe you to be unaware and brain dead. So, essentially, you are in a persistent vegetative state. The same three options are applicable to this situation as well.

The third situation is when you are in an end-stage condition which could have been caused by injury, disease, or illness, and the condition results in severe and permanent deterioration indicated by incompetency and complete physical dependency for which treatment of the irreversible condition would be medically ineffective. In this situation, your body is so deteriorated in condition that you cannot stand, feed, or do anything for yourself. The three same situations are above. Your mind may be functional here, but your body is not.

These are tough situations, and that is why a living will is so essential. Will your wife, brother, or parents be able to handle one of these scenarios rationally, or do they even know what would be your wishes in these situations? Most people would say no. Living wills really help make sure that you are guaranteed your desired medical treatments in these situations.

Skillern Law Firm, PLLC living wills also include an area where you are able to choose if you will be an organ donor, what organs or body parts you want to donate, and for which purpose you would want to donate for (surgery, transplant, science, etc). If you need a living will done today (which you probably do!), contact Skillern Law Firm now!

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