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CAN DOCTORS IGNORE LEGITIMATE LIVING WILLS?

Dear Abby: The letter from "Grieving Widow, Edgewater, Fla.," concerning living wills brought back some painful memories.

My husband died of a heart attack a year ago. When I discovered him, he had already started to turn blue. I called 911. The police arrived quickly and began administering CPR. After what seemed like a long time, I finally said, "Please stop; my husband has suffered with pain for years, and lately he's been talking about suicide - let him go! He has a living will."They said they were under standing orders to apply CPR until the emergency medical technicians arrived. When they got there, the police told them about the living will, but they insisted on contacting his doctor. I was grateful that the doctor instructed them to discontinue CPR. This illustrates that only the doctor's decision counts - not what the patient wants.

Later the police officers, who were very comforting, told me that my husband was already gone when they arrived.

It angers me when doctors who oppose the right to die insist they can keep patients free from pain. My husband tried for years to get some relief from constant pain.

Doctors are not gods, and we should stop putting them in that position.

- Without Freedom of Choice

Dear Without: Your letter underscores the importance of stating one's wishes in writing. That is why I urge readers to have a living will. Also, it is imperative that physicians agree to honor it.

Dear Abby: I was shocked by the report of the grieving widow in Edgewater, Fla., whose physician refused to honor her husband's living will. His refusal was contrary to federal law.

The Patient Self-Determination Act became effective on Dec. 1, 1991, and established without question that medical personnel and health-care institutions must respect and comply with living wills executed by mentally competent persons. Failure to abide by those instructions may lead to malpractice suits.

It is also now well-established by law and by court decisions that a mentally competent patient may accept or reject any recommended treatment. If the patient has signed a living will and should become unable to communicate, the "next of kin" is authorized to make decisions on behalf of the patient.

Even now, it may not be too late for the grieving widow to take action.

- Roy Torcaso, president,

Hemlock Society of the National

Capital Area, McLean, Va.

Dear Abby: Over the years, you have held that all children should be treated equally when it comes to leaving them an inheritance.

I disagree. I would be inclined to be more generous to one who needed financial aid at the time.

I have one daughter who had cancer and needed a lot of financial help over a period of several years. (Thank God, she recovered.) My other children understood, and never questioned the fact that I did more for her than I did for the others.

It's not possible to treat all grown children equally. Some are more ambitious, talented or luckier than their siblings. It makes more sense to help the child who needs it most at the time - regardless.

- Fair Is Fair

in Princeton, N.J.

Dear Fair Is Fair: I agree that because life does not always present equal challenges to siblings, the amount of help each needs may not be identical. Your daughter's situation illustrates that.

However, when there is a disparity in the division of property among siblings after the parents are gone, it can affect their feelings toward each other for the rest of their lives. And that is why I recommend equality.

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