With Terri Schiavo Drawing Headlines More Americans Discuss Death

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 6, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

With Terri Schiavo Drawing Headlines More Americans Discuss Death Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 6, 2006

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — With the legal battle over Terri Schiavo’s life capturing headlines across the country, a new poll find more Americans are talking about death and writing living wills. The poll by the Pew Research Center finds people are more likely nowadays to plan for their own death or talk to close relatives about it.

Increasingly, as Americans grow older, more end of life cases are making the news and more Americans are having to make controversial decisions about how to care for loved ones.

The Pew poll found that 29 percent of Americans now say they have a living will — up from just 12 percent in 1990 who said they had one.

In addition, 69 percent of those who are married say they have discussed the kind of end of life medical treatment they prefer with their spouse. That’s up from just half of married adults who had done that in 1990.

Andrew Kohut, the director of the Pew Research Center, told the Associated Press that the poll "found that people who have participated in decisions about end of life or had loved ones with illnesses in the last five years are much more likely to have thought about end-of-life treatments or to have living wills."

Kohut said the Terri Schiavo case has increased the number in part because the legal battle revolved around her wishes since she didn’t have an advanced directive in place.

Pro-life groups say those who don’t want to become victims of euthanasia, like Terri, should make sure they have in writing the kind of lifesaving medical treatment they want. But relying on a living will may not be a good idea.

"I think people need to create advance directives in which they say, ‘I don’t want to be dehydrated to death and have my food taken away if I become cognitively disabled,’" Wesley Smith, an attorney specializing in bioethics issues, told LifeNews.com last year.

"We always hear about doing away with treatment, but they can also be used proactively to say, ‘Look, don’t take any actions to intentionally kill me, ’" Smith added.

The National Right to Life Committee has crafted a legal document called the "Will to Live," which "makes clear one’s desire not to be starved or denied lifesaving treatment if unable to make health care decisions for oneself," said Burke Balch, NRLC’s director of medical ethics.

The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide recommends a durable power of attorney for health care as a life-affirming alternative to the living will.

"You name a trusted individual to make decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself either temporarily or permanently," Rita Marker, the group’s director, told Focus on the Family.

"With a living will, what you’re essentially doing is giving all authority to an unknown physician," Marker added.

The Pew poll of 1,500 people was taken from November 9 to 27 and has a three percent margin of error.

TAKE ACTION: Use the below web sites to download the forms you need to make a pro-life decision about the medical care you want.

Related web sites:
Durable power of attorney form –
NRLC "Will to Live" – https://www.nrlc.org/euthanasia/willtolive