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Schiavo Case Having Impact Locally, More People Asking about Health Care Proxies

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – A local doctor says the Florida case of Terri Schiavo has generated a number of questions from the public about health care proxies.

Dr. Eric TenBrock, is the chair of Kaledia Health's Medical Ethics Committee and director of critical care. He says he has handled "life support" cases in Buffalo.

"It's (local cases) not always someone as young as this. But very frequently someone becomes incapacitated. They don't have a health care proxy, and they may or may not have given clear and convincing evidence of what they may have wanted," TenBrock said. "This puts their family members and health care providers at a distinct disadvantage, optimized by this case."

Dr. TenBrock says he and other doctors believe it was inappropriate for Congress to vote on the case.

"The conversation that it sparked was more a general displeasure with a Congress and the President getting involved in the matter as they did," TenBrock said. "Irresponsible statements were made. The doctors, by and large, feel if the government is involved, it should have an appropriate say."

TenBrock says he finds it "unfortunate" that so many people wait until a crisis situation to learn about the medical and ethical principals behind life support decisions. But now people are asking for health care proxy information.

"A number of people have asked where they can get a health care proxy. A number have asked to clarify the proxies and living will," TenBrock said. "It is really on the forefront of minds of the people of Western New York."

TenBrock says there will be some good created from this controversial case. He says it should dramatically increase the number of people who pre-plan such decisions.