Kaylee Springer was full of life and ready to start a new chapter in Florida with her husband, Jonathan, when she went into cardiac arrest at her home in Key West at the age of 25 in August 2002. Kaylee was successfully resuscitated by emergency medical responders, but she suffered extensive brain damage due to lack of oxygen to her brain and was left comatose.
Almost four years had gone by without any signs of improvement, and Kaylee’s doctor’s changed her official diagnosis from comatose to that of an irreversible persistent vegetative state. This is when Jonathan petitioned the 16th Circuit Court of Florida to remove her feeding tube in March 2006, pursuant to Florida law, where he was met with opposition from Kaylee’s Parents, Julia and Donald Richardson.
This dispute between Jonathan and Kaylee’s parents would lead to a nine-year legal battle that involved 18 court appeals, extensive federal government intervention by the Governor of Florida, U.S. Congress, and the President, and four denials of certiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court. Kaylee had no living will at the time of the incident, and Kaylee’s parents argued that her devotion to her faith as a Catholic woman would not allow her to refuse life-prolonging treatment such as a feeding tube, hydration, and nutrition.
Although trial testimony from 21 witnesses regarding Kaylee’s end-of-life wishes indicated the opposite, there was simply no way for the Court to definitively determine what those wishes were, and removal of the feeding tube was delayed for over nine years as Jonathan and Kaylee’s parents each exhausted their judicial options in the case. Kaylee died at a hospice facility in Florida on September 28th, 2015, over thirteen years after the incident that left her comatose.
Why do I need a healthcare directive?
A healthcare directive allows you to make detailed, specific written instructions for your future care in the event that you can no longer speak or otherwise make decisions for yourself. These documents outline your specific wishes regarding life-sustaining medical treatment if you become, for example, severely incapacitated or permanently unconscious.
What specific provisions should be included in my healthcare directive?
There are two key components when it comes to drafting or reviewing a healthcare directive:
- The name of the agents who will decide if, how, and what type of life-prolonging treatments you receive—this includes specific instructions regarding how exactly such decisions should be made, as well as the type of nutrition and supplements you wish to receive while on life support.
- Who should have access in the event that you become incapacitated, meaning who should be able to make medical decisions regarding your care—this prevents conflict between the people in your life who believe that they are the correct person to make decisions regarding your care, such as the dispute between Kaylee’s husband and her parents that led to a nine-year legal battle.
If I told someone that I want them to make my healthcare decisions in the event of my incapacity or illness, is that enough?
Unfortunately, oral conversations or assertions in which you tell someone that you wish for them to serve as your agent are insufficient to enforce a healthcare directive. To have a valid, legally enforceable healthcare directive, you must have a healthcare directive drafted, signed by you or your authorized representative and acknowledged by a notary or signed by and in the presence of two witnesses. Additionally, it is a good idea to distribute a copy of your healthcare directive to your physicians, family members, and others in order to inform them of the actions that should or should not be taken on your behalf in the case of incapacity or illness.
Do I have to name a doctor or close relative as my agent in my healthcare directive?
No, you do not have to name a physician, close family member, or any other relative to serve as your agent. These documents are in place to ensure that your wishes are honored, and if you wish to appoint someone outside of your family to make these decisions for you, you have the right to do so in your healthcare directive.
Can I specify what types of life-prolonging treatments I wish to receive, if any?
Yes. Again, the purpose of these documents is to honor your wishes, and nobody else’s. You can specify what type of life-prolonging treatment you want, how long you wish to receive such treatment, or that you do not want any life-prolonging treatment at all in the event of prolonged incapacity or illness.
In conclusion, future-needs planning in the form of a specific, detailed healthcare directive is an essential aspect of protecting yourself and ensuring that your specific wishes are met in the event of your unexpected incapacity or illness. It is important to consider even the most unexpected occurrences when preparing for yourself and your family’s future.
Springdale Law Group is one of a few law firms that ensure the well-being and future of yourself and your family by assisting in drafting, reviewing, and finalizing your advanced healthcare directives. As a comprehensive estate planning firm, we are proud to provide this essential service to individuals. Our team is fluent in English, Chinese, and Spanish and can assist with wealth management and estate planning in all 50 states. Don’t leave your own future to chance.
Contact us today and take the first step in securing a secure plan for your future healthcare and well-being in the event of the most unexpected happening to you. Let us help you make a plan that provides peace of mind before it’s too late.