Sunday, May 21, 2006

Great-Grandma's New Tattoo and Powers of Attorney for Care

The somewhat eccentric story below has prompted this reminder that in Ontario, a Power of Attorney for Care is the best means of ensuring that your loved ones and health care professionals know your intentions in a medical crisis.

The Ontario Power of Attorney for Care is a simple legal document that is easily and inexpensively prepared by a lawyer.

It is used to designate the individual(s) who are authorized to provide care instructions to your physicians when you cannot do so for yourself. If desired, the Power of Attorney for Care may also be utilized to make your specific health care wishes clearly known and legally enforceable.

Reacting to last year's Terri Schiavo controversy, however, an 80 year-old Iowa great-grandmother has taken it to a whole new level entirely.

See this report from the Des Moines Register:

Great-grandma tattoos "DO NOT RESUSCITATE" on her chest
Woman hopes tattoo sparks discussions about health crises

May 16, 2006

Dyersville, Ia. — Eighty-year-old Mary Wohlford has informed family members of her wishes should she ever become incapacitated. She also has signed a living will that hangs on the side of her refrigerator.

But the retired nurse and great-grandmother now believes she has removed all potential for confusion. She had the words "DO NOT RESUSCITATE" tattooed on her chest.

...Medical and legal experts expressed doubts that Wohlford's tattoo would prove binding, either in the emergency room or in the courts, but they give her credit for originality."

I'll be darned," said Bob Cowie, a Decorah lawyer and chairman of the Iowa Bar Association's probate and trust law section. He added, "There are easier ways to do it than that," such as signing a living will or authorizing a medical power of attorney.

Said Wohlford: "I don't believe in lawyers too much."

...She said her decision to enter a Galena, Ill., tattoo parlor in February was the culmination of what she witnessed during her almost 30 years in nursing and during the Terri Schiavo controversy last year.

Schiavo was the Florida woman who collapsed in 1990 and never recovered. She died in April 2005 after a judge ordered her feeding tube removed. The case divided her family and the country.

Wohlford said she does not want something like that to happen to her.

If all else fails, if family members can't find her living will or can't face the responsibility of ending life-sustaining measures, she said, then doctors will know her wishes by simply reading the tiny words that are tattooed over her sternum.

"I probably should have had it dated, too," she said.

...The widowed Wohlford has eight daughters, 17 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

...In addition to a living will, Cowie said, another approach is to authorize someone who can make decisions for you using what's called a medical power of attorney. If traveling, place a copy with your airplane tickets, he said. Cowie said some clients have their living will or medical power of attorney form reduced in size and laminated, then carry it in a wallet. On one issue, the experts are unanimous: If Wohlford's tattoo gets more people thinking about what they want done in a health crisis, they're all for it.

That's Wohlford's wish as well. "At least it gives them my feeling on the situation, so they have a guideline of what I'm thinking. Then they can work from there. Everyone needs to think about this," she said.

Wohlford has no regrets about getting her tattoo "it felt kind of like a bee sting" and proposed an offer to Lietz, the shop owner. "I told Gary I'd bring a busload of old ladies over if he'd give me a 10 percent cut."

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Visit the WISE LAW OFFICE Website -

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