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The case reveals the danger of signing living wills – Circuit Court Judge Kirkwood has ruled that a 24-year military veteran cannot be kept on life-support despite the pleas of his wife who has power-of attorney over his health care decisions.

The judge agreed with the arguments of the doctors and hospital that the man’s ‘living will’, which indicated at the time signed that he would prefer death to remaining on life support during terminal illness or incapacity, must be followed.

Hanford Pinette, 73, was, according to his wife, watching football with his family and learning sign-language as recently as Sunday. American news media broadcast photos of Pinette and his wife that appeared to show the hospitalized patient smiling at his wife’s attentions to him.

However, doctors claim he is not cognizant and “clearly cannot understand what is happening to him.” While Orlando Regional Healthcare said it had no choice but to follow the man’s living will and disconnect his life support, Pinette’s wife Alice, visibly distressed during her televised court statements, said, “To me, that’s killing a man and I cannot do that.”

The issue comes down to the danger of living wills and the “lethal concoction” of an aging population coupled with a health care system focused on cost containment, said Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC).

“This is another situation where people who have signed the living will most likely did not understand how it would be interpreted┬ůMost likely his intention was to die a natural death but what it meant is being denied medical care even though his wife, with power of attorney, is insisting upon it.”

Schadenberg explained that “many people sign living wills believing they are merely ensuring a natural death without having every machine hooked up to them.”

Schadenberg suggests that instead of a living will, people consider a ‘life protecting power of attorney for personal care’ document available from the EPC. The EPC document avoids the confusion around a living will, setting out clearly that withdrawal of basic medical care including food and fluids is never an option, while at the same time allowing for refusal of extraordinary medical intervention to prolong death. [ORLANDO, 24Nov04; The EPC document is available from their website:]