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September 26, 2006

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Mother Bonnie

When my father was hospitalized in 1980, he was asked whether he wanted to recieve "exceptional care." Neither he nor my mother asked what that meant, but he knew he was terminally ill with cancer, and said, "No." So my father was starved and dehydrated to death. He and my mother did not know that the hospital considered IV fluids and simple meals "exceptional care." My father was killed in the same way that Terri Schiavo was killed. I have worked as a hospital chaplain and I know that most families don't know what they are signing up for when they sign for minimal care. The typical "living will" offered by hospitals is deeply problematic. My husband and I have alternative living wills. I urge adults to rewrite the living will text to give specific guidelines about end-of-life care, and I am willing to send copies of our instructions to any who are interested. I had major surgery in the spring of 2005 and went over the statement with my surgeon beforehand. He was quite amazed by my requirements -- but also pleased to have specific guidelines. I believe that most doctors will appreciate this.

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