It doesn’t have to be this way.
What do Terri Schiavo, Nancy Cruzan, and Karen Ann Quinlan have in common? All of them were the subjects of important and controversial court cases involving end-of-life care. All of them were also young women in their 20s, who had unexpected medical crises. None of them had done any kind of advance planning in regard to medical care. And in all three cases, their families were devastated as a result (Quinlan’s father agonized for months over the decision. Schiavo’s family spent a fortune and was torn in half. Cruzan’s father ultimately committed suicide).
It doesn’t have to be that way.
What is an Advanced Health Care Directive
An Advance Health Care Directive is a form you can fill out, which appoints someone to make medical decisions for you, if you are no longer able to make them yourself, and it also makes a number of end-of-life decisions in advance. These used to be called “living wills”, but the name was changed when the Alaska Health Care Decisions Act took effect in 2005.
There is a statutory form available for Alaskans. It is found at Alaska Statute 13.52.300. Unfortunately there are a number of problems with the statutory form, including some provisions which appear to say one thing but actually mean another. For that reason, we do not recommend you use the statutory form. There are a number of other forms available, including several simplified versions given out by local hospitals.
Kenneth Kirk and Advance Directives
Attorney Kenneth Kirk has substantial experience dealing with life support termination issues. He argued a life support termination case in front of the Alaska Supreme Court, wrote a law review article on the new law when it came out, and has walked hundreds of clients through a variety of different versions of the form. He has created his own version of the Directive, based on the statutory form but “cleaned up” to make it easier to understand. The latest version of his form is found here.
Mr. Kirk’s philosophy, when helping clients fill out an Advance Health Care Directive, is that the attorney should explain things and make sure the client understands the implications of their decisions, but not to push clients into making one decision or another. The most important thing, in his view, is that you make the decisions, not him or anyone else.