The recent media attention of the tragic death of Natasha Richardson serves as an important reminder to the rest of us of the importance of end of life planning. Especially for young couples and families, failure to have a health care power of attorney can be more devastating than failure to have a will. Just look at the cases of Terri Schiavo, Paul Brophy, and Nancy Cruzan. In the case of each, their families fought for years through the court system regarding the proper course of treatment.
Not only is it important for every adult to have a health care power of attorney (also called health care proxy or advance medical directive) but it is also important that you talk to your designated agent and family members about your desires regarding end of life treatment.
Attorneys are not the only ones espousing the importance of health care proxies. New York Times health columnist Jane Brody has released a new book addressing the importance of end of life planning for the young and healthy.