AMA Votes to Do More to Promote Living Wills After Terri Schiavo Battle

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 13, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

AMA Votes to Do More to Promote Living Wills After Terri Schiavo Battle Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 13, 2006

Chicago, IL ( — After the national legal battle and controversy over the euthanasia death of Terri Schiavo, the American Medical Association voted on Tuesday at its national meeting to go more to promote living wills. The doctors group says not enough is being done to help patients locate information on advanced directives.

"The tragic case of Terri Schiavo made many Americans acutely aware of the risks associated with not clearly communicating end-of-life decisions," AMA Board Member Robert Wah, M.D., said in a statement obtained by

Wah said the AMA was concerned that "many are unsure about how to locate information or even begin the process of obtaining an advance directive."

"Advance directives give incapacitated patients a voice in their end-of-life care," Wah added. "Too often, family members are unaware or conflicted about their loved one’s wishes. An advance directive helps to clarify the difficult decisions."

"The AMA is committed to helping educate patients and physicians about the importance of end-of-life care planning," Wah added.

He indicated the group would work with Medicare, health insurers and state Departments of Motor Vehicles to distribute information about living wills.

However, pro-life advocates warn patients that living wills may not necessarily protect their desire to receive lifesaving medical treatment.

"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 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.

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" –