I have avoided talking about the Terri Schiavo situation simply because everyone else was, and because I just kind of considered it to be none of my business. Even the truly opportunistic and outrageous posturing by such POTUS hopefuls as Bill Frist was not enough to get me to comment online. Even the ongoing posturing by morons like Tom DeLay (how is this man still employed and on the public radar screen?! He's a total joke, but that is another post entirely) was not enough to make me comment. But as I've been thinking about it, and as I just received the copy of my own advance directive that I had drawn up before leaving for China, I suppose it might be valuable to discuss it only to say the following:
Create an advance directive. Put it in writing. Share it with everyone who matters.
If God Forbid something should happen to me, no one will be "pulling the plug" on me; no one will be deciding to let me die. They will be carrying out MY wishes, and acting in the manner I have legally requested that they act.
See the difference?
I can absolutely identify the members of my family who would, through nothing but kindness and love, keep me in a persistent vegetative state for decades. I can also identify the members of my family who, in carrying out my wishes to be allowed to die with dignity, might be seen to be trying to end my life unnecessarily. But for my advanced directive clearly detailing my wishes, and but for my selection of a particular family member who will be legally tasked with making those end-of-life decisions for me, I could easily see my family devolving into the same tragic downward spiral of grief and litigiousness that has befallen the Schiavos.
Do your loved ones a favor. Don't make them have to decide what to do should you not be able to decide for yourself in the moment. The resources are generally free on various internet sites or are not tremendously expensive through a local, hang-your-shingle-out lawyer's office. Check out the following link to a WSJ article that takes you through many questions and ideas about living wills, and then DO IT. Seriously. It is not part of the normal course of life to end life support for your parents or kids. It is too great a burden to place on someone who loves you. Make it simply one more way that they can honor you and your wishes, rather than one more deeply painful element of what will already be a heartbreaking situation.