March 21, 2005
Jefferson City, Mo. — Missourians who want to be clear about their desires for medical care if they become incapacitated should make those wishes known through advance directives, Attorney General Jay Nixon and the Missouri End of Life Coalition said today. Advance directives can help families avoid anguish, such as that being experienced by the family of Terri Schiavo in Florida, by spelling out exactly what treatments you do or do not want if you are unable to communicate your wishes.
"The time to talk about end-of-life situations with your family, doctor and clergy and commit those decisions in writing is now, as this tragic situation in Florida demonstrates," Nixon says. " Advance directives can provide clear direction of your wishes and specify who you want to communicate decisions on your behalf. I encourage all Missouri adults to have these directives."
"Communication between families and health care providers is critical after the diagnosis of a chronic illness," said Dr. Charles Crecilius, of the Missouri End of Life Coalition. "We encourage discussion of health care decisions while a person is healthy and can think clearly."
Nixon has partnered with the coalition — a statewide group of health care professionals, attorneys, social workers and others who are working to improve end of life care — to raise awareness and empower Missourians with knowledge about end-of-life issues.
They produced a detailed booklet last year titled "Life Choices," which defines terms used in end-of-life situations and provides forms for families to review and fill out. The forms include a durable power of attorney for health care choices and a health care choices directive. The free booklet also is available in paper form by calling the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.
The booklet also compares advance directives and living wills. People may not understand the limitations of living wills, Nixon said, particularly if they use living will forms that may not take into account the laws in different states. In Missouri, living wills apply only to near death situations in which the patient will die shortly without medical intervention. In addition, Missouri law prohibits a living will from being used to withhold or withdraw artificially supplied nutrition and hydration.