Living will question resonates because of Florida case |

Living will question resonates because of Florida case

Gregory Crofton

The case of Terri Schiavo and whether it was right to remove a feeding tube from her stomach, her only source of nutrition, has provoked South Shore residents to contemplate the “what if were me” question.

“If I couldn’t stay alive by natural means and had no hope of recovering, I’d want to be put down,” said Chad Granum, 21, of Tahoe City. “I’ve got most of that stuff taken care of already, my family is pretty up on that stuff.”

Frank Bauer of Zephyr Cove had a niece who, like Schiavo, suffered a heart attack that caused extensive brain damage. The experience jolted he and his wife to action. They figured out what paperwork needed to get done so their relatives know and can prove they don’t want to be kept alive by unnatural means.

“Her husband fortunately was a doctor and knew enough for her to have a living will,” Bauer, 64, said. “I designated my wife or my kids. You needed a notary and a witness. I got the forms from the state.”

Rachelle Nicolle, a Zephyr Cove-based attorney licensed in California and Nevada, said the Schiavo case has created an heightened awareness in her clients.

“Before this case was in news they’d be like “Oh … OK,” Nicolle said. “Now people really get it. It really helped sharpen the issue.”

In California, the paperwork required to make someone’s wishes clear is called “the California Advanced Healthcare Directive.” In Nevada, the process involves getting the state to recognize a guardian to communicate someone’s medical treatment prerogative, Nicolle said.

The paperwork is often made available for patients before they are admitted to a hospital. But attorneys like Nicolle also provide the service. She charges $195 for the work. Most of the people who complete the process are recently retired.

“Over 99 percent of the people don’t want what happened to Terri Schiavo to happen to them, and it can be prevented with the right paperwork,” Nicolle said.

If the work is not done beforehand, the amount of paperwork, expense and time it takes to transfer decision-making power to a relative doubles.

Fred Beltran, 32, of Round Hill, said the Schiavo case has made him contemplate what he would want done if he were alive but severely brain damaged.

“I would not want to live in that kind of state,” Beltran. “I want peace and wouldn’t want to be dragged on. Especially if it dragged on for 13 years. You’ve got to know when to say when.”

The matter isn’t as clear in the mind of Denise Russell, 40, of South Lake Tahoe.

“I have thought about it, but I can’t decide what I want to do yet,” Russell said. “It’s one of those things I’m really torn by.”

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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