Death With Dignity?

California has recently moved forward with legislation which would allow terminally ill people to choose to end their lives. (Here) The legislation still awaits approval from the California State Assembly and must be signed by Governor Brown in order to become law, but the initial steps have brought this issue back to the public eye.

Similar pushes are being urged in Tennessee and elsewhere.

Proposals such as that in California face stiff emotional responses from both sides of the issue. While not yet passed in California, these laws are currently in place in some states. Below is some information about the legislation currently in place.

WHERE IS IT CURRENTLY LEGAL?

Currently Oregon, Washington and Vermont have so-called Death with Dignity laws, allowing competent adults to request and receive prescription medication to hasten their death. (More Info Here)

While Montana courts have previously ruled that the physician aid in dying provided to terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients is not contract ot public policy there is no legal protocol in place.

OTHER STATES

In 46 states and DC, death with dignity acts may have legal and/or criminal ramifications.

WHAT ARE THE GENERAL REQUIREMENTS?

Each state may have specific criteria. (See Vermont, Oregon, and Washington)

Generally speaking common requirements include a patient to be:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • a resident of Oregon, Washington, or Vermont
  • capable of making and communicating health care decisions of him/herself
  • and diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months

LIVING WILLS AND SELF ADMINISTRATION REQUIREMENTS

In Oregon, Vermont or Washington, a patient must be capable of communicating their wishes directly to a physician and make the request on their own behalf. Because of this requirement, someone acting through a medical directive would not be able to rely on these laws for another person.

For assistance with your estate planning needs, please contact Kamper, Estrada, Simmons, LLP at 602 230-1234.

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