Wednesday, September 27, 2006
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.
Today, field surgeons unaware of last wishes say they often keep soldiers with crippling brain injuries alive and fly them to the USA. That allows families a chance to get closure and to make decisions about organ donation, says Brett Schlifka, an Army neurosurgeon. It also might leave relatives to decide whether to withhold life support.
Not every family member favors a move toward living wills. Sarah Wade, whose husband, Ted, suffered a major head injury from a roadside blast in Iraq in 2004, says she has mixed feelings. If her husband had a living will, he might have directed doctors not to take the steps that saved his life, she says.
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.
Special thanks to Neil E. Hendershot of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania law firm of Goldberg Katzman, P.C., who also authors the PA Elder, Estate & Fiduciary Law Blog, for bringing this development to my attention.