Capital Ideas

Article excerpt

Byline: Jane Bryant Quinn

There's more reason than ever to leave written instructions about the medical care you want if you're unable to speak for yourself. In the wake of the Terri Schiavo case, in which her husband and parents fought over whether to remove her feeding tubes, right-to-life activists have been working on state legislatures. Their objective: requiring doctors and families to keep life support going for patients in a permanently comatose state. If that's not what you want, you need to make it clear.

What's happening? In 23 states, legislators have introduced versions of a model bill written by the organization National Right to Life. It establishes the presumption that patients in a persistent vegetative state would want continuing life support unless they've left written instructions to the contrary. Public officials could file lawsuits against doctors or relatives tempted to pull the plug. In most states, these bills have gone nowhere. But versions of them have passed in North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Have any states made it easier for families to make life-and-death decisions? …