Friday, April 01, 2005


A Living Will Is The Best Revenge

This was originally published in the St. Petersburg Times.

Living will is the best revenge
By ROBERT FRIEDMAN, Perspective Editor
Published March 27, 2005

Like many of you, I have been compelled by recent events to prepare a more detailed advance directive dealing with end-of-life issues. Here's what mine says:

* In the event I lapse into a persistent vegetative state, I want medical authorities to resort to extraordinary means to prolong my hellish semiexistence. Fifteen years wouldn't be long enough for me.

* I want my wife and my parents to compound their misery by engaging in a bitter and protracted feud that depletes their emotions and their bank accounts.

* I want my wife to ruin the rest of her life by maintaining an interminable vigil at my bedside. I'd be really jealous if she waited less than a decade to start dating again or otherwise rebuilding a semblance of a normal life.

* I want my case to be turned into a circus by losers and crackpots from around the country who hope to bring meaning to their empty lives by investing the same transient emotion in me that they once reserved for Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy and that little girl who got stuck in a well.

* I want those crackpots to spread vicious lies about my wife.

* I want to be placed in a hospice where protesters can gather to bring further grief and disruption to the lives of dozens of dying patients and families whose stories are sadder than my own.

* I want the people who attach themselves to my case because of their deep devotion to the sanctity of life to make death threats against any judges, elected officials or health care professionals who disagree with them.

* I want the medical geniuses and philosopher kings who populate the Florida Legislature to ignore me for more than a decade and then turn my case into a forum for weeks of politically calculated bloviation.

* I want total strangers - oily politicians, maudlin news anchors, ersatz friars and all other hangers-on - to start calling me "Bobby," as if they had known me since childhood.

* I'm not insisting on this as part of my directive, but it would be nice if Congress passed a "Bobby's Law" that applied only to me and ignored the medical needs of tens of millions of other Americans without adequate health coverage.

* Even if the "Bobby's Law" idea doesn't work out, I want Congress - especially all those self-described conservatives who claim to believe in "less government and more freedom" - to trample on the decisions of doctors, judges and other experts who actually know something about my case. And I want members of Congress to launch into an extended debate that gives them another excuse to avoid pesky issues such as national security and the economy.

* In particular, I want House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to use my case as an opportunity to divert the country's attention from the mounting political and legal troubles stemming from his slimy misbehavior.

* And I want Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to make a mockery of his Harvard medical degree by misrepresenting the details of my case in ways that might give a boost to his 2008 presidential campaign.

* I want Frist and the rest of the world to judge my medical condition on the basis of a snippet of dated and demeaning videotape that should have remained private.

* Because I think I would retain my sense of humor even in a persistent vegetative state, I'd want President Bush - the same guy who publicly mocked Karla Faye Tucker when signing off on her death warrant as governor of Texas - to claim he was intervening in my case because it is always best "to err on the side of life."

* I want the state Department of Children and Families to step in at the last moment to take responsibility for my well-being, because nothing bad could ever happen to anyone under DCF's care.

* And because Gov. Jeb Bush is the smartest and most righteous human being on the face of the Earth, I want any and all of the aforementioned directives to be disregarded if the governor happens to disagree with them. If he says he knows what's best for me, I won't be in any position to argue.

Robert Friedman is editor of Perspective. He can be reached at
There are several more important issues here. First, what caused her vegetative state? It was cardiac arrest brought on by electrolyte imbalance from bulemia. Sad, that no congressperson is stressing the importance of women's health and mental health care as a preventative measure. Why have women always been treated as scaled-down men. Until recently, the way women present with illness hasn't even been studied, just treated like they would behave and have the same symptoms as men. Second, the Repukes, I believe are using this issue to get people sick of 'government' interference. They want to keep the government, i.e. the FDA, EPA,etc... from interferring in private corporations who pollute poor communities, or manufacture unsafe drugs. I believe they are trying to create a backlash against the government to get people against government programs, like social security.
Tom Delay is not classy guy.
An excellent column, especially in light of a terrible existence for Terri Schiavo. The interesting thing is that removing a feeding tube from a PVS individual is a common occurrence. So why don't we hear about it? Because a) family was pitted against family in what was best b) because as the column stated so well, politicians became involved, and c) this is typically a PRIVATE and FAMILY decision.
I encourage everyone to a) create a living will and b) (perhaps even more important) tell your next of kin exactly what medical advances you would and would NOT want to have. Make sure they understand your wishes. Had this happened in Terri Schiavo's case, I believe she would have been allowed to die years ago.
Despite this case, we continue to skirt around the issue of euthanasia...people were horrified when her feeding tube was removed and she was to die due to dehyradation (a normal dying process). Morphine or other pain alternatives could have been given to alleviate any pain, and may have assisted with the dying process.
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