Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Death with Dignity

Brittany and her husband, Dan on their wedding day. Source: People.com

The End.

The first time I head the term, "Death with Dignity" or "Right to Die" was in law school. Like money, it is not polite to discuss assisted suicide or physician-assisted suicide (PAS) at the dinner table.

PAS is not euthanasia. Euthanasia also known as "mercy killing" occurs when a physician continues to administer drugs (like morphine) that ease the pain, but ultimately stop the heart. In the case of PAS, the patient administers the lethal drug. Under the prenumbras of the Ninth Amendment, there is a well-established Right to Privacy. It's a hot topic in American Constitutional Law. In 2006, the United States Supreme Court ruled, 6-3 that the Federal Government cannot limit State's from authorizing physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs. Four U.S. States have legalized PAS.

An Unlikely Advocate

This weeks issue of People Magazine features the story of Brittany Maynard. She is a 29-year-old newlywed, and she going to die November 1st. How do I know that? She said it. Brittany is expected to die in a very slow, painful way in the next few months. She has one of the most aggressive forms of brain tumor. When she heard how she was going to die while living in California, she looked into PAS. Now she is taking her death into her own hands, literally. But, you will hear that this is not suicide. She has no desire to die. But, she will die with or without pain. It's her choice.

PAS creates a lot of ethical issues for legislatures, doctors, and the public. PAS fundamentally goes against the Hippocratic Oath, which says, " "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel." However, the Declaration of Geneva and International Code of Medical Ethics both talk about "respect for human life."

You'll hear from Brittany (and other's who make this choice) that this is about respect for human life, not death. Most people to turn to PAS are not suicidal (in fact, that is one of the criteria to be eligible to receive the medication), and they are very sick. Their life is being taken from them. They don't want to die in a hospice, they want to live at home. It's a tough call, but with all Right to Privacy issues, we tend to defer to giving individuals a choice.

Carpe Diem.

Brittany is spending her final days sharing her story to expand PAS. As she carries around her demise in her purse, she wants you to know that you do not have to suffer in the traditional way. Here are Plata Schott Law we see the benefits of Death with Dignity. If you or someone you love would like to discuss your legal options, give us a call at 904-516-5562. We will be thinking of Brittany on November 1st.

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