In California, an Advanced Healthcare Directive is a document that specifies the kind of healthcare treatment desired if one were to become incapacitated and unable to make these decisions for his or herself. One of the questions that needs to be addressed is whether the person would want to be kept alive by life support. In this directive, a person or persons would be nominated to carry out the wishes of the incapacitated person.
The need for a Healthcare Power of Attorney got nationwide attention in 2005 due to the court battle over Terri Schiavo who was in a persistent vegetative state and did not have a healthcare directive. Her husband wanted to disconnect her feeding tube, while her parents refused to allow it. In a seven year court battle, the case was heard in the Federal District Court, Supreme Court of Florida as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Ultimately Terri Schiavo’s husband was successful and the courts determined that the feeding tube should be removed which ended her life. The media attention surrounding this issue highlights the importance of having an Advanced Healthcare Directive in place so that there would not be any question as to the wishes of an incapacitated person.