State laws give patients options when applying advance directives

LETTER — Posted May 17, 2004

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Regarding "Catholic patients, doctors face living will dilemma" (Article, April 26): American Medical News does a disservice to all of its readers by perpetuating a critical misunderstanding about advance directives.

George Isajiw, MD, past president of the Catholic Medical Assn. is quoted as saying "a living will does not go into effect unless you're terminal." Since advance directive laws vary from state to state, this statement does not necessarily pertain in New York, California, Michigan and other states where a person may use a properly drawn up advance directive -- in lay terms, a living will -- to indicate his or her desire to refuse all medical treatments, including nutrition and hydration, for such conditions as permanent unconsciousness or persistent vegetative state.

Joel Roselin, New York

Editors note: Roselin is a Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School. He was formerly director of communications for Choice in Dying and is a medical ethics educator.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/05/17/edlt0517.htm.

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