Local News

Schiavo Case Shows Importance Of Documenting End-Of-Life Wishes

Posted October 24, 2003

— Terri Schiavo never signed a living will or power of attorney.

Now, she lies brain damaged in a Florida hospital, the center of a national debate over whether or not to pull the plug.

People in North Carolina have been following Schiavo's case. They are discovering a great lesson:

Prepare for the worst -- while you can.

Megan Wallace of Raleigh may have made the most important decision of her life Friday as she signed her living will -- a decision about her death.

Megan is 20, not much younger than Schiavo was when her heart stopped. Schiavo remains in a persistent vegetative state in Florida, while her family fights over whether she should live or die.

"First of all, this case in Florida is a huge tragedy," said Gwen Sullivan, of the Carolinas Center for Hospice and End-Of-Life Care in Cary. "I can't imagine a situation being any worse than this.

"Most people have not completed these forms."

There are two forms. A

Living Will

states whether a person wants certain medical treatment withheld. A

Health Care Power of Attorney

lists someone who could make that decision for a person when that person can not.

"The point I'm trying to get across is that is never too early," Sullivan said. "You never know what can happen."

Megan Wallace understands that concept, even at age 20.

"I had a friend break his neck," she said. "You know, we need these (forms).

"If I have no brain activity, and I'm not going to come out of it," she said. "It's not worth it to me to put them (her family) through that when I would rather just move on."

Wallace's father, Greg, is an attorney. As he helped his daughter fill out her forms, he said his focus is to "try to prepare before you get in the emergency situation.

"Make your wishes known," he said.

He then asked his daughter to "sign your full name there, please."

And so, Megan Wallace's wishes became documented -- making official what could be the most important decision she will make.


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