Things to Think About Before Signing your Directive to Physicians

In 2005, after a long battle that included various courts and the United States Congress, Florida resident Terri Schiavo became a symbol of ‘how not to die’ in America. Schiavo had collapsed in 1990 from cardiac arrest that deprived her brain of oxygen. Many doctors diagnosed her as living in a persistent vegetative state. A feeding tube kept her alive for 15 years.

Terri Schiavo’s husband, Michael, argued that his wife would never have wanted to live in such a condition and that her feeding tube should be removed. Terri’s parents and siblings disagreed and fought to keep her feeding tube intact. Eventually, the courts agreed with her husband and allowed her feeding tube to be removed. She died about two weeks after the tube was removed.

The Schiavo case caused national debate and states enacted legislation regarding what has come to be known as the ‘living will.’ In Texas, we don’t have a ‘living will’ but we do have a “Directive to Physicians.”

At Nickerson Law Group, when you sign your estate plan, you will also make decisions regarding your Directive to Physicians. There are a few key things to think about regarding your Directive to Physicians.

First, the Directive to Physicians only comes into play if you can’t communicate and if you have either a Terminal or Irreversible Condition

Terminal Condition

A Terminal Condition is caused by injury or disease and will cause death within six months even if medical treatment is provided. You will decide if you want life-sustaining treatment (i.e. breathing machines, kidney dialysis treatment, artificial hydration, and nutrition) in the event of a “Terminal Condition.”

Irreversible Condition

An Irreversible Condition is one that will never be cured or eliminated but if life-sustaining treatment is provided, it could keep you alive for years. Terri Schiavo’s case is a good example of an Irreversible Condition. You will decide if you want life-sustaining treatment in the event of an Irreversible Condition.

Not Sure

Some clients don’t want to make the determination. When clients are not sure, we have several suggestions that make clients feel comfortable signing. 

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