LIVING WILLS: ‘Five Wishes’ Urges Personal Decisions
After being pioneered in Florida less than two years ago, the "Five Wishes" living will was unveiled Thursday by the nonprofit Aging with Dignity as a national model of an "innovative living will that goes beyond medical questions to deal with personal, emotional and spiritual issues." The living will has been specifically crafted so that it complies with the statutes governing living wills in 32 states, in addition to Florida and the District of Columbia. The Miami Herald reports that in Florida, 250,000 people have completed the five-part document, consisting of two sections "similar to many 'living wills,'" specifying who may make health decisions and detailing end-of-life preferences, and three sections that "involve intensely personal choices on how to deal with approaching death: Do you want prayers at your bedside? ... What do you want at your funeral?" Jim Towey, the organization's president asserts, "This will help people caught between the health care conveyor belt that doesn't always know when to stop and the polar extreme -- the assisted suicide movement" (Davies, 10/23).
If I Had Five Wishes
The Washington Times reports that Aging With Dignity constructed the eight-page will in response to recent high- profile end-of-life cases, "such as the recent battle in Manassas, VA, over former TV anchorman Hugh Finn [which] have encouraged about one in four Americans to write living wills." However, Towey said, most living wills only "address medical decisions," rather than the comprehensive approach outlined in the new document. Charles Sabatino of the Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly, agreed, saying, "[T]he statutes ... are so filled with jargon that they often stymie public interest" (Witham, 10/23). In an interview with NPR's Linda Wertheimer, Towey said the Five Wishes stemmed from a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study indicating that many "living wills aren't even followed." He said the document allows an individual to convey that "I want to be cared for in a way that's consistent not only with the law, but that is communicating I don't want one of my caregivers taking my life. Unfortunately, that's a discussion that's going to be raging in the United States for the next decade." He asserts that Five Wishes will transform a "medical moment" into a spiritual experience. He explained, "There are issues about forgiveness and about prayer and about comfort, and it's an important event" ("All Things Considered," 10/22). Five Wishes is available online at Aging With Dignity's webiste, www.agi ngwithdignity.org.