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Dying Smart

Why your living will may not be good enough.
2005This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Terri Schiavo's controversial death is old news now, but many of us are still grappling with the end-of-life questions it made us ask. The Florida woman's case propelled millions to consider living wills.

Not so fast, caution many Christian ethicists and right-to-life groups. Living wills are more complex than they appear and alone don't necessarily guarantee death on your terms. Even if you already have a living will, you might want to know why some critics think these documents may be dangerous and others see potential ethical problems. You may not want what you signed.

Some critics go so far as to see the recent rush to sign living wills as a victory of the pro-euthanasia movement.

Flip Benham, director of Operation Rescue, lamented that the Hemlock Society had to be "dancing with glee" as, during the Schiavo debacle, Christian leaders were telling us to have living wills drawn up. Want it from the horse's mouth?

"We have to go stage by stage, with the living will, with the power of attorney, with the withdrawal of this; we have to go stage by stage," said Derek Humphry, founder of the Hemlock Society (now called End-of-Life Choices), in a 1986 interview quoted in National Right to Life News. "Your side would call that the 'slippery slope.' We would say, 'Proceed with caution, learning as we go how to handle this very sensitive situation.'" Pro-lifers also point out that the first living will was devised by the Euthanasia Society (now called Choice in Dying), and the documents are routinely advocated by groups that lobby for direct euthanasia.

Just because such groups favor living wills doesn't negate their value. But it does suggest that they can be used, even inadvertently, to promote values that contradict Scripture.

Another ...

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