The poignant tale of an active Brooksville man who chose to refuse medical treatment after a bicycle accident that left him a quadriplegic is a reminder to Floridians of the need to make end-of-life wishes clear to loved ones, preferably in writing. Ed Allison was able to verbally convey his wishes to his doctor and wife, but many individuals in similar medically dependent situations cannot. A written living will can protect their wishes for a dignified death.
As the Tampa Bay Times' Tony Marrero reported, the 56-year-old Allison and his wife, Patty, 55, both nurses at Brooksville Regional Hospital, led very active lives — kayaking, horseback riding and cycling. Then Allison suffered a catastrophic accident on June 18 while cycling through the Withlacoochee State Forest. Allison's spinal cord was severed just below the base of the skull, paralyzing him from the neck down. Doctors told him he would never be free of a ventilator. Ten days after the accident, Allison decided to refuse additional treatment and died with his wife by his side.
Florida law permits patients to refuse life-prolonging treatment. But many families facing end-of-life decisions are often dealing with patients who may not able to express their wishes. That was the case for Terri Schiavo, a Pinellas County woman who was in a persistent vegetative state from 1990 to 2005 as her parents challenged in court her husband's belief that she would not want to be kept alive in her condition. The debate eventually led to the U.S. Supreme Court and the desk of President George W. Bush. The husband, Michael Schiavo, eventually prevailed and his wife died shortly after a feeding tube was removed.
Ed Allison was able to convey his wishes, but many patients cannot. A living will helps avoid confusion, honors the end-of-life wishes of loved ones and spares families additional emotional stress.