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    Living will pioneer Doris Herbert dies at 93

    By CRAIG BASSE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2001


    DUNEDIN -- Doris Herbert, whose "Yankee spunk" carried her to victory in a landmark Florida living will lawsuit, has died at 93.

    Ms. Herbert, who fought the case through the courts for Estelle Browning, a second cousin, died Saturday (March 24, 2001) at ManorCare Health Services

    She did not request an obituary in making advance funeral arrangements, and word of her death did not surface until this week.

    In her 1985 living will, Mrs. Browning refused life-prolonging medical procedures. A year later, she had a stroke that left her paralyzed and attached to feeding tubes.

    In 1988, Ms. Herbert, who was her cousin's guardian, began a legal battle to remove the tubes, but the 89-year-old Mrs. Browning died -- still connected to the tubes -- before the issue was settled.

    Citing Florida's constitutional right to privacy, the state Supreme Court ruled in September 1990 that people who are permanently incapacitated need not be subjected to forced feeding.

    In a unanimous ruling, the court held that a living will can allow caregivers to withhold food and water from an incapacitated person, even when death isn't imminent.

    The ruling went further, granting a right to die to people who have told friends or relatives that they don't want to be fed indefinitely through a tube.

    "Doris was very courageous, a very courageous woman to pursue that legally," said George Felos, the Dunedin attorney who represented Ms. Herbert.

    "She had intense opposition. She received threats of bodily harm more than once. She showed a lot of Yankee spunk to go through that.

    "Going through that protracted litigation was not easy for anyone, and you have to remember that Doris was in her 80s when that was going on. But the result benefited countless Floridians."

    Born in Pawtucket, R.I., Ms. Herbert moved to Dunedin in 1982 from Albany, N.Y., and lived with Mrs. Browning. She had worked as a bookkeeper.

    Survivors include a nephew, Kenneth Herbert, Costa Mesa, Calif. American Burial & Cremation, Dunedin, handled her arrangements.

    - Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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