One of the best things we can do in reference to protecting our own lives from the culture of death is to fill out the “Will to Live” document.
These documents have been prepared by our friends at National Right to Life, in conjunction with legal experts, to conform to the laws in each of the 50 states. I would like to send one to you, and you can order it at www.priestsforlife.org/store/p-250-will-to-live.aspx. There is no charge.
This document is meant to protect you. The danger in our day is not that we will have treatments we don’t want; the danger, instead, is that we will not have treatments that we do want.
The “Will to Live” lets you indicate in advance that you want the care that is morally obligatory, that you do not want your life to be taken, and that if you cannot speak for yourself, a person you appoint and who shares your values and understands your desires will speak for you.
This arrangement can not only spare your life, but can preserve your loved ones from the confusion and anguish that can happen if they don’t know your wishes. The case of Terri Schiavo, in which I was deeply involved, is an example. Click here for an eyewitness account of that case.
Because illness or tragedy can strike at any time, the “Will to Live” is for adults of all ages.
The Will to Live is important, because we cannot predict the future, or know in advance what form of sickness or disease we may be afflicted with in the years ahead. We do not know what treatments we will need or what will be available.
We do not ever want to pretend, therefore, that we know what kind of medical treatments we will want to use or avoid in the future. It makes no sense to decide on treatments before we even know the disease.
Not every medical treatment is always obligatory. But to figure out which treatments are obligatory, morally speaking, and which are only optional, one must know the medical facts of the case. These facts are then examined in the light of the moral principles involved. But to try to make that decision in advance is to act without all the necessary information.
People already have the right to make informed consent decisions telling their family and physicians how they want to be treated if and when they can no longer make decisions for themselves. Doctors are already free to withhold or withdraw useless procedures in terminal cases that provide no benefit to the patient. Some people fear that medical technology will be used to torture them in their final days. But it is more likely that the ‘medical heroics’ people fear are the very treatments that will make possible a more comfortable, less painful death.
A safe route is to appoint a health care proxy who can speak for you in those cases where you may not be able to speak for yourself. This should be a person who knows your beliefs and values, and with whom you discuss these matters in detail. In case you cannot speak for yourself, your proxy can ask all the necessary questions of your doctors and clergy, and make an assessment when all the details of your condition and medical needs are actually known. That’s much safer than predicting the future. Appointing a health care proxy in a way that safeguards your right to life is easy.
Order your “Will to Live” today at www.priestsforlife.org/store/p-250-will-to-live.aspx. Please be sure to indicate what state you want it for, especially if you are getting one for someone who lives in a different state than you. Please also let others know of this offer.