Many baby boomers donít have end-of-life legal documents
such as a living will ó and some say itís because they feel
healthy and young in their middle-age years and donít need
to dwell on death.
An Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll found that 64
percent of boomers ó those born between 1946 and 1964 ó say
they donít have a health care proxy or living will. Those
documents would guide medical decisions should a patient be
unable to communicate with doctors.
ďIím very healthy for my age,Ē said Mary McGee, 53, of
Archbald, Pa. ďSo, death and dying isnít on my mind a lot.Ē
McGee, a computer programmer, exercises five to seven days a
week, everything from aerobics to kickboxing, and her
parents are alive and healthy.
The same goes for 57-year-old Sandy Morgan in Richmond, Va.,
a retired teacher who is working part time for an executive
ďI donít think of myself in terms of my age group,Ē said
Morgan, who runs three miles a day twice a week, practices
yoga twice a week and takes part in a rigorous fitness boot
camp twice a week. Her parents, in their early 80s, are
healthy, too ó so living wills arenít on her radar.
ďI just feel like itís something Iíll probably think about
in my late 60s or 70s,Ē she said.
A living will spells
out a patientís wishes for medical care if he or she is
unable to communicate with doctors.
The health care proxy, also known as a health care power of
attorney, allows an individual to select a person he or she
trusts to make decisions about medical care should the
patient become incapacitated.
Kathy Brandt says living wills and health care proxies are a
good idea for everyone whether they are healthy and young or
older and not so healthy.
Brandt, a senior vice president at the National Hospice and
Palliative Care Organization, said the two documents can
spare families a painful fight and ensure that patients
receive ó or donít receive ó the medical treatment they wish
should they end up in a situation where they canít speak for
The living will is not ďall or nothing,Ē said Brandt. A
person could say he or she wants everything, something or
nothing. For example, one person may want heroic measures
taken to prolong life, while another may want to be
resuscitated but decide against being dependent on breathing
Brandt pointed to high-profile cases such as the Florida
family fight over Terri Schiavo as a smart reason to draft a
living will and health care proxy.
At 26, Schiavo collapsed at her St. Petersburg home in 1990
with no end-of-life care instructions in writing.
Her heart stopped and she suffered what doctors said was
irreversible brain damage that left her in a permanent
vegetative state. Her husband said his wife would not have
wanted to live in a vegetative state; her parents wanted her
What ensued was a years-long legal battle that involved
dozens of judges in numerous jurisdictions, including the
U.S. Supreme Court, and Congress.
Schiavoís feeding tube was ordered removed in 2005. About
two weeks later, she died.
Each state has its own forms for proxies and living wills,
said Brandt. And while itís a legal document, she said, you
donít need an attorney to draft one.
The forms need to be witnessed, but thatís it. She advises
giving copies to plenty of people ó family, friends,
colleagues ó so a personís wishes are well-known.
For baby boomer William Walsh in Petersburg, Va., drafting a
living will hasnít crossed his mind.
ďI just havenít really thought about it to tell you the
truth,Ē said Walsh, 61. ďYou always think something is going
to happen to the other guy, not you.Ē
Walsh said no one in his family has ever needed one, but
also said he might give the idea more thought.
The AP-LifeGoesStrong.com poll was conducted June 3-12 by
Knowledge Networks of Palo Alto, Calif., and involved online
interviews with 1,416 adults, including 1,078 baby boomers.
The margin of sampling error for results from the boomers is
plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
Knowledge Networks used traditional telephone and mail
sampling methods to randomly recruit respondents. People
selected who had no Internet access were given it for free.
About the Author
article was prepared by the Associated Press in Washington,
D.C. AP Polling Director Trevor Tompson, Deputy Polling
Director Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis
Junius contributed to this report.
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