national news media accounts of the Terry Schiavo case have become
the topic around water coolers and kitchen tables all over the country.
Everyone has an opinion either “for” the husband or “for” her parents.
The key issue is: what did Terry Schiavo want? Her husband says she
wanted no extraordinary measures and her parents say she did. Who
knows for sure? Everyone has an opinion. Her case is one of the most
“gut wrenching” cases of our times because it brings up an issue all
of us could face. We find ourselves asking, “What if that were me?”
The one thing EVERYONE agrees with in the Schiavo case is that there
would be no case at all if Ms. Schiavo had completed a “living will”
or durable power of attorney setting forth her wishes. A living will
is a written document that sets forth what a person wants to happen
to them in the event of their incapacity. Every state – including
Alaska – has some version of a living will. A durable power of attorney
appoints a person to take care of your personal affairs in the events
you cannot. It is “durable” meaning that it is still effective should
you become incapacitated.
During the 2004 legislative session, the Alaska Legislature enacted
a new, statutory Alaska Advance Health Care Directive that became
effective on January 1, 2005. The Directive is literally printed in
the statute and the specific language is “on the books.” The new Directive
replaced the former “living will” statute.
If you already have a living will or durable power of attorney, you
should have an attorney look at it to make sure it still meets your
needs. Those living wills and durable powers of attorney signed before
January 1, 2005 are “grand-fathered in” so they are still valid. The
new Directive is quite comprehensive and it is worth taking a look
at. It is also a good idea to discuss these issues with your doctor
and to make sure he or she also has a copy of your Directive.
In order to cover all of your needs in the event of incapacity, it
is also a good idea to have appointed a trusted person as your attorney-in-fact
in a written Power of Attorney so that they can take care of your
financial and personal affairs during the period you cannot. The Power
of Attorney can be made “durable” so that it is still effective should
you become incapacitated.
A copy of the statutory Advance Health Care Directive is available
to be downloaded at: www.alaskalaw.com. Go to “articles” and look
for this article, and then click on the link in the article to look
at the form. It is advisable that you discuss this form, which is
straight out of the statute, with your own attorney to make sure it
fits your personal situation and that you complete it correctly.
No one over the age of 18 is “too young” for an Advance Health Care
Directive. Ms. Schiavo was in her mid 20’s when she became incapacitated.
Save yourself and your loved ones heartache and get an Advance Health
Care Directive so that your loved ones know what you want to happen
should you face a debilitating illness.
Cook Schuhmann & Groseclose,
Inc. (CSG) has provided the information contained in this
website as a courtesy and for the purposes of general information
only. Nothing in this website should be construed as
legal advice or an opinion regarding specific circumstances.
You should contact an attorney concerning your own specific
factual situation and any legal questions you may have.
Please be aware that an attorney-client relationship does
not begin until an agreement is reached between CSG and represented
party. Please be advised that representation may require
a written agreement, signed by CSG and a represented
party (a requirement of the Alaska Bar Association).