October 1998 - [Page 1] [Page 2] [Page 3] [Page 4]

  LIVING WILLS AND THE INTERNET
       By  Carroll Palmer
Beginning Sunday, Sept. 20, 1998, the Press Journal ran a three part series of articles concerning the subject of dying with dignity in America.  The initial article discussed the use of durable powers of attorney and living wills as one tool available to persons in controlling their handling by health care entities as they approach death.  This included reports of actual experiences showing that living wills are not an absolute solution to terminal patient situations unless that document is promptly available to the health care entity.  Thus, one affected person was quoted as stating It made me realize you almost have to carry one in your pocket.  Further, the article talked about a Vial Of Life system used in Brevard County wherein participants store living wills and health care orders in vials (I'm not making this up) that are stored in the freezer and a sticker is posted on the participant's front door to tell emergency workers where to look for the information.  One must wonder why vials and a freezer would be involved with storage and access to printed documents except in the very unusual circumstance where some special medication would need to be simultaneously available.
To any person acquainted with the Internet, the Vial Of Life protocol would appear like something out of the dark ages.  Thus, an Internet user will quickly ask why the information is not located on a web site for instantaneous access by the health care entity, even when the patient is thousands of miles from home.  Well, browsing the internet shows that such internet services are in place and have been for at least five years.  For example, www.gbso.net/frlw is a web site for Florida Registry and Living Will Registry of America that provides such a service for a substantial initial fee and a small annual fee, including an identification card to be carried by the participant.  Anyone who seeks to use such an internet web site to enable health care givers quick access to a relevant living will would be wise to inquire about security measures taken by the service provider against access to the very private documents by hackers or other persons with no business having such access.  Another concern must be what attention is given to how a health care entity will be altered at the critical time that there is a living will available for the patient on the Internet.  Widespread use of such services may be needed to get health care entities to look for relevant Internet identification cards.
Another interesting web site dealing with this subject is

www. mindspring.com/~scottr/will.html

which contains a large, well organized set of links to living wills (advance directives) web pages, living will forms and related information. 
A further web site is www.livingwill.com/.  This is the output of a Canadian doctor and contains much further interesting medical information you may find worth the time it takes to check it out.