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WSAV News 3
February 9, 2006
Death and dying-it's something that many people avoid talking about. But refusing
to talk about it and make your end of life decisions can cause you--and your family--more
grief and money than you may know.
According to the U.S. Living Will Registry 75% of Americans want to prepare an
advance directive but only 30% have actually done it. The U.S. Living Will registry
defines a living will as a legal document in which you state the kind of health
care you want or don't want under certain circumstances.
And as News 3's Dianne Derby found out for one widow in Savannah--not having
a living will made her choose between prolonging her husband's life or ending it
against his wishes. "People in South Carolina really loved Otto Reynolds," said
widow Eunice Newcomer.
Newcomer said her late husband's passion for people is what made him such a likable
guy. But a few years after they met and married Otto began a battle with cancer--a
battle he wouldn't win. "The doctors did tell my husband that he was in the throws
the beginning of his death," said Newcomer.
Newcomer said they had talked about him making a living will but Otto just wouldn't
do it. "When you put it down in writing and sign it it's a very final thing for
some people," said Newcomer.
But that forced Eunice into a horrible position. "The hardest thing I've ever
done in my life was when I had to make this decision to end someone's life," said
Just two days after going into the hospital Otto was gone. "I know dying has
got to be a process that no one really wants to go through but it's just not fair
for the survivors to have to make this decision," said Newcomer.
St. Joseph's Candler Chaplain the Rev. Don Marlar often sees the struggles many
families face when a loved one does not have a living will. Before the Terri Schiavo
case got national attention he says he only helped 100 people with their living
wills. But he says in the last year more than 1000 people have created one.
"Having these discussions as families is very important," said Marlar. "These
documents give you the opportunity and the occasion to have this kind of discussion
among family members."
Marlar recalled a time when a woman he worked with decided to take her brother
off life support. "She was able to say the most loving thing to do is to not put
him through this any longer," said Marlar.
It's the same choice Eunice was forced to make when her husband was ill. Now
she urges everyone to keep their family members from a similar situation. "People
really need to take care of this themselves because it's sad to have to make that
decision," said Newcomer.
Many attorneys say more important than a living will is having another advance
directive--a durable health care power of attorney. "It gives somebody in family
the authority to discuss things with the doctor and have control over the medical
decisions that are made," said attorney Russ Simpson.
Simpson said a durable health care power of attorney is an important addition
to a living will because a living will only dictates whether or not you want life
Attorneys say it's important to keep a copy of advance directives forms for yourself
and give one to your family and your health care provider. Attorneys also advise
to not put advance directives in a safety deposit box because the people who need
to access them might not be able to do so in a time of need.
(Note that you can create your Will, Power of Attorney and Living Will online at
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