Friday, September 29, 2006

"Living Wills" for Military Personnel

I am "back-filling" my Friday post with an item that I found originally last week, but did not post, thinking it was not relevant to this blog. Instead, I had emailed it to Professor Gerry W. Beyer; and he had noted it on the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog, which he moderates, in a posting found online here.

However, over the weekend, I reconsidered the importance of this article for Pennsylvanians.

I quote part of Prof. Beyer's post; and then I'll add my further thoughts.

Battlefield Doctors and Living Wills

Should battlefield doctors know whether an injured soldier has executed a living will? That is the issue being debated at a symposium sponsored by the Army's Wounded Warrior Program.

The following excerpts are from Gregg Zoroya,
Army explores issue of living wills as more return from war in comas:

With technology as good as it is, they can keep that soldier alive, but they can't put their hands on a digitized piece of paper" containing a do-not-resuscitate order, says Ed Salau, a former Army lieutenant who lost his left leg during combat in Iraq. * * *

Troops can fill out living wills instructing doctors to withhold care. Those at the symposium recommended that troops be better educated about the process and that the wills be accessible to doctors.

* * *

See also Gregg Zoroya,
Families bear catastrophic war wounds, USA Today, Sept. 25, 2006, at 8A:

One recommendation from the symposium was for the military to more aggressively urge soldiers to fill out living wills containing directives about whether medical treatment should be withheld in the event of a dire brain injury.

The matter of "advance care directives" for service personnel is important to Pennsylvanians (and should be noted on this blog) -- because so many of our Commonwealth's citizens serve in the military. Whether full-time or part-time, many maintain a home and their residence in this Commonwealth. And many face a potentially imminent "end-of-life" decision situation due to their service.

For example, the Pennsylvania National Guard, which includes the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, is the largest and (we PA people believe) the best Guard unit in the nation. Today it is tasked with more duties, for longer times of service, than any time in its history. It is supported by the Pennsylvania National Guard Associations, and also by certain state government initiatives, including those proposed by Governor Rendell in April, 2005, as described online here.

These service personnel must address the issue raised in the article. For more information, see "Living Wills: A Matter of Life or Death", by Elaine Wilson, Air Force Public Information Office, published on July 12, 2005, by the Family Military Network, and found online here.

Whatever the differences, Mr. Brasher said he recommends a living will based on where people live, whether a resident or not, to remove the “guess work.”

“It’s best to have one for the state you live in or (move) to so the local doctor has a document he’s familiar with,” he said.

However, since each state has its own format, the legal office [in Texas] includes a header that asks for the will to be recognized nationwide.

This article notes that military personnel are entitled to free preparation of a "living will": "Any military legal assistance office can prepare living wills free of charge to active-duty servicemembers, family members, retirees and reservists on active duty for 30 or more days."