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'The Business of Health Care Report'

The Importance of Living Wills

I’m Doug Hawthorne, president and CEO of Texas Health Resources, with “The Business of Health Care Report.”

The Terri Schiavo case garnered international media attention and illustrated the emotional and legal turmoil families can face when end-of-life decisions hang in the balance. There is a way to help avoid these problems. Under Texas law, you can use advance directives to make your wishes known concerning medical care before care is needed.

A living will is one type of advance directive. It allows you to state in advance whether you want life-sustaining treatment after being diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible illness. It becomes effective only if you are unable to make your own decisions about your medical care because of illness or injury.

Another type of advance directive is a medical power of attorney – which allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions for you when you cannot. It takes effect if you become mentally or physically unable to express your wishes concerning medical treatment. At such time, the designated agent must follow the instructions concerning medical care you previously have given.

All advance directives should be kept with your important papers, and copies should be given to your physicians and persons who are likely to be with you if you become seriously ill.

To download a copy of a living will or medical power of attorney, go to and click on “Create a Living Will.”

For Texas Health Resources and its faith-based hospitals – Harris Methodist, Presbyterian and Arlington Memorial – I’m Doug Hawthorne.

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