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Living Wills: When Should You Pull the Plug?

WHEN SHOULD YOU PULL THE PLUG

Living Wills, also known as Advance Medical Directives, say that if you are toast, pull the plug. I find the whole topic of whether we have a right to dictate our deaths to be really fascinating. I know, I should think about more upbeat things, and I do. But this just really grabs my interest.

Here are some of the many questions that are asked about living wills:

1. Should doctors be allowed to help patients die?
2. Is giving a patient a lethal dose of a barbiturate different from saying to stop life sustaining treatment in a Living Will?
3. Does the government have the right to say how you die?
4. Should Living Wills address the issue of physician assisted death?
5. Should patients be allowed to make their own choices regarding their own deaths?
6. What will stop folks from pressuring someone to take the lethal dose pill so those folks get off the hook for taking care of that individual?
7. Is it possible we are not really discussing suicide at all since the person involved is dying anyway–they are just choosing how that will happen?
I don’t for a second think I have answers, but the questions sure give you a lot of food for thought.

What are the arguments pro and con re: Physician Assisted Death, aka Physician Assisted Suicide?

Opponents say:

1. Physician assisted death is incompatible with a doctor’s role as a healer.
2. Physician assisted death cannot be appropriately regulated.
3. Our society should not be promoting death in this way.
4. Physician assisted death is no different than euthanasia.
5. Causing death is causing harm to the individual.
6. The sanctity of life is a very important value.
7. Certain groups, lacking access to care and support, could be pushed to die sooner rather than later.

Proponents say:

1. Patients are allowed to control all aspects of their medical treatment—why not this decision as well.
2. The states, in which physician assisted death is allowed, have not found a problem with regulating it.
3. Not allowing physician assisted death can be seen as causing harm to the individual by prolonging suffering.
4. Personal liberty is a very important value.
5. Physician assisted death empowers someone who is feeling that all of his/her ability to have power over his/her life has ended with the disease.
6. Decisions are made daily around death—increase or decrease medications, refuse surgery, implement Living Wills—physician assisted death is no different.
7. People are not choosing between life and death. They are dying. They are choosing how to die and when.

It is important to note that between 1997 and 2014, 1,173 prescriptions were written for people intending to end their lives using the Death With Dignity Act in Oregon. 752 people actually used the prescribed pills.

What Does The Law Say.

Arizona Law. Assisted suicide is considered manslaughter in Arizona. It is a class 2 felony. The most serious felony is a class 1. You can be convicted if you intentionally provide the physical means that another uses to commit suicide, with knowledge that the person intends to commit suicide.

States That Have Passed Death With Dignity laws.
Oregon, Washington, Montana, Massachusetts, California

States That Are Considering Death With Dignity Laws.
In the 2016 legislative session, approximately 20 states are considering Death With Dignity laws. Arizona is one of those states.

The most famous law—Oregon’s Death With Dignity Law.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the key points of the Oregon Death With Dignity Law.

A. Basic requirements

1. Have to be 18, and
2. Have to be an Oregon resident, and
3. Have to be able to make and communicate health care decisions for oneself, and
4. Have to be diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within 6 months, and
5. Must make 2 oral requests, for medication to die, to a doctor 15 days apart.

B. More requirements

1. The patient’s attending doctor and a consulting doctor must:
a. Confirm the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis, and
b. Determine if the patient is capable of making and communicating health care decisions.
2. The attending doctor must tell the patient that he/she has alternatives, like comfort care, hospice care and pain control.
3. The attending doctor must ask the patient to notify next-of-kin. He/she does not need to confirm the patient did this.

C. How It Is Done

1. The dosage is usually an oral dose of a barbiturate.
2. A doctor cannot be the one giving the actual dose. The patient must be able to take the dose him/herself.
3. A patient’s family cannot make a request for this medicine on behalf of a patient.

Get in contact with me today to make sure your estate planning affairs are in order.

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

This blog is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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