Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

In Venice, Discussion of Death Is Vigorous

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

In Venice, Discussion of Death Is Vigorous

Article excerpt

Q&A: Questions raised at Thursday's talk covered a broad range of issues


More than 120 people overflowed Jacaranda Public Library's parking lot and meeting room Thursday for the second of two Herald- Tribune public forums on end-of-life choices.

The panel discussions, moderated by reporter Carrie Seidman, were in response to her March 16 article, "The Traveler's Final Journey," about Dorothy Conlon, 86, a world traveler who wanted to decide how her life would end even though she had no diagnosed illness. She died by VSED -- "voluntary suspension of eating and drinking" -- supported by a circle of friends.

Members of the audience posed questions about Conlon's choice, and the legal and practical implications of trying to avoid a medicalized death or drawn-out decline. Their topics covered a wide range, reflecting the highly individual ways in which people contemplate their own end.

"We are not here to debate the right and the wrong of what Dorothy did," Seidman told the audience. "For each one of us, what we decide about what constitutes a good death is personal."

Here are some of the questions posed, with answers from panelists and others featured in Seidman's story.

Q:If you have a living will that says you don't want heroic medical measures, can you change your mind when you go to hospital?

A:Yes; a living will only goes into effect when you are not capable of making your wishes known.

"You are always going to be able to make your own decisions when you are competent," said Sarasota elder law attorney John T. Griffin. "The living will is a necessary part of the process if you're in surgery and you don't wake up. Without one, you get into a case like Terri Schiavo's, where there was no document" to indicate her wishes.

Q:What about a DNR -- do-not-resuscitate order?

A:This is a document signed by a doctor saying that you do not want to be revived in an emergency. …

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