Living wills give closure

Recognition of living wills has risen and there is a way to become more educated about taking advantage of this document.

Living wills are legal documents in which you state the kind of care you want in cases of serious injury.

It also states the type of care that you may not want. This document becomes necessary because accidents happen and terminal illnesses may occur.

The Terri Schiavo case has drawn national attention to the topic of living wills.

Lisette Mariner, communications director with the Florida Medical Association, said the Schiavo case helped to raise public awareness.

“No one ever expects an accident or knows the outcome of one,” Mariner said. “Living wills provide people with security that their wishes will be carried out.”

Living wills produce a black-and-white copy of your final wishes. Anyone of legal age can obtain them and will then have control over their fate.

Attorney Alex Littlefield, who is an expert with wills, said living wills are for all those that desire it.

Littlefield, who volunteers legal services for Florida, said having a living will takes the burden off families to decide.

“Before the Schiavo case, Floridians did not fully realize the meaning of this document,” Littlefield said. “Without it, doubt is present-no one really knows what you want.”

Doctors like Ishe Kappor, Heritage Medical Group, said that living wills also help them deal with tough situations. He said that the Schiavo case has helped with patient awareness.

“Families look to doctors to make the decision if no living will is in place,” Kappor said. “It is very emotional because they try to put the burden on the doctors to decide.”

Like Kappor many doctors are starting to inform patients of the importance of these wills.

The FMA has seen a significant increase in the number of calls it receives and hits to its Web site since the Schiavo case.

Mariner said Floridians are becoming aware of the importance because they don’t want to get caught in a situation like hers.

According to Littlefield the process of getting a living will is easy and may pay off in the long run. He said you should contact an attorney or physician. From there a document is drawn up stating exactly what you want or don’t want under certain circumstances. The document is then signed in the presence of two witnesses and becomes official.

According to the FMA Web site,, a living will should not be confused with a legal will. Legal wills dispose of personal property on or after a person’s death.

The FMA has recently teamed up with the Florida Bar Association to help increase public awareness. Although more Floridians have shown concern for this document, the FMA and FBA said they would keep getting the word out its importance

For more information about living wills and how to get one on file, visit or

Contact Summer Hall at