Remember Karen Ann Quinlan? In 1975, after an evening out with friends during which she consumed alcohol and sedatives, the 21-year-old stopped breathing and lapsed into a coma.
Doctors were able to save Karen Ann's life, but she suffered severe brain damage and fell into what doctors diagnosed as a persistent vegetative state. Karen Ann was thought to be unable to breathe without a ventilator and unable to eat without a feeding tube. Her family wanted the doctors to remove Karen Ann’s ventilator, but the hospital refused to do so without a court order to protect them. As a result, Karen Ann’s family went to court seeking legal protection for the hospital to remove their daughter’s ventilator. They won their case and, after receiving a protective court order, Karen Ann's ventilator was removed in 1976. However, Karen Ann surprised everyone and did not die, but began breathing on her own. Karen Ann continued to breath on her own for nine years. She continued to be fed through a feeding tube until she died naturally of pneumonia in 1985.
The Quinlan case illustrates how important it is for each of us to have a legal document called a Living Will. A Living Will provides written directives and documentation to ensure that your wishes are executed, the person you wish to represent your interests is not challenged, your family and loved ones are spared doubt, guilt, divisiveness, and unnecessary legal expenses.
The Living Will provides instructions about your end-of-life wishes, such as the removal of artificial life support or food and water. A Living Will can describe the level of health care that you want in the event that you become seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself. Living Wills are not used as long as you are able to express your own decisions on whether to accept or refuse medical treatment. They are used only when an attending health care provider determines that you are in a terminal condition and are no longer able to participate in making your own decisions regarding medical treatment.
If you live in Montana and you do not yet have a Living Will, please contact Matrium Law Group right away by calling (406) 552-7814 or by sending us an email. The attorneys at Matrium Law Group can help you properly complete and file your Living Will with the Montana End-of-Life Registry. The Living Will is one of the most important and necessary legal document that all adults should have.
Very often it’s the young and healthy who stand to benefit from Living Wills the most. This is because it is the young and healthy who are robust enough to go on for a long time after a serious illness or accident as we’ve seen in the Karen Ann Quinlan case. Living Wills are analogous in many ways to insurance. It doesn't solve everything but it certainly minimize the damage if something terrible happens. So please do yourself and your loved ones a favor, and contact Matrium Law Group today about your Living Will.