Monday, June 19, 2017

Denver DA & PD Units on Elder Abuse

The Denver Post reported recently that the Denver DA and the Denver Police are taking steps to combat elder and vulnerable adult abuse.  Denver DA, police form units to protect elderly, developmentally disabled   explains that the DA has created a division within the office on elder abuse. As well the Chief of Denver PD has established a special victims unit  for elders and vulnerable adults who are victims of abuse.  The DA's division "will focus on physical abuse and neglect crimes against at-risk adults aged 70 or older, as well as adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities ... [as well as] prosecute financial fraud cases that target at-risk adults." The PD unit will work together with DA investigators and social workers to investigate reports. 

Colorado uses age 70 for victims of elder abuse, and the law includes mandatory reporting.  The law seems to be having a positive effect, based on the statistics in the article: "the number of Denver police investigations related to at-risk adults climbed adults climbed 271 percent from 228 to 847 cases between 2013 and 2016, according to department statistics. Elder abuse cases make up the bulk of the cases. Police investigated 735 elder abuse cases in 2016, a 418 percent increase above the 142 cases investigated in 2013."

June 19, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

California Aid-in-Dying One Year Later

The New York Times ran an article giving an update on California's aid-in-dying law.  The numbers are not from state officials but come from Compassion in Choices.  They report "at least 504 terminally ill Californians have requested a prescription for life-ending drugs since a state law allowing physician-assisted deaths went into effect in June 2016... [representing] ... those who have contacted Compassion & Choices...."  The article notes that once the state publishes the required data there will be a more accurate picture of the law's application. The article also references the number of facilities that have written policies on recognizing the prescriptions. The article also reminds us that a lawsuit had been filed some time back to challenge the law, with a hearing scheduled for June 16, 2017.

June 4, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Growing Opposition to Consolidation of Departments of Aging into Other State Departments

As I reported here for the first time recently, Pennsylvania's Governor Wolf has proposed consolidation -- or as he prefers to call it -- unification -- of four separate administrative agencies, the Departments of Aging, Health, Human Services (formerly Public Welfare) and Drug & Alcohol Treatment Programs.  Are similar budget-driven changes occurring in your state?

As I catch up with events in Pennsylvania, I'm learning from readers about growing concerns about the possible merger.  

  • As one recently retired PA legislator pointed out, there seems to be little in the way of a written plan for how services will be handled under this merger.  Rather, the merger appears mostly as a description of budget items, with a lot of "minus" signs to indicate cuts.  Perhaps by design, Pennsylvania government is often a bad example of transparency for governments.  What is the real plan, if any?  
  • With the consolidation, at a minimum, older Pennsylvanians would be losing a cabinet level post, their singular, dedicated spokesperson. This would be likely to affect all future budget and programming battles.
  • The timing is, to use a favorite Trump adjective, "sad."  While the leading edge of the big wave of aging baby boomers began to be felt a few years ago when those born in in 1945 started turning age 65 in 2010, the "real" need for an effective advocate is when boomers start turning age 75, age 80 and so on, the higher ages when they are more likely to need or question access to services.

Perhaps of greatest significance is the potential impact of consolidation on the process for assessment of need for services and assistance, especially Medical Assistance.  

Under the current allocation of resources, "assessment" of need is handled by individuals employed under the authority of Pennsylvania's Department of Aging.  

However, the financial allocations are currently determined under the authority of the Department of Human Services.  Consolidation might make sense on paper, but wait

As one of my mentors in aging, Northern Ireland's former Commissioner of Older People Claire Keatinge, says, to be helpful, fair and effective, any individual assessment of need for health care, social care and security, should be exactly that -- individualized and focused on the client,  and should not be simply a match to "what services (if any) are available."  That process-based distinction is critical to determining current and future funding priorities.

In Pennsylvania, the lion's share of budget and personnel for aging services has long been housed in the Department of Human Services (formerly Public Welfare), but those workers -- perhaps by necessity and perhaps by design, have often functioned as dedicated bean counters, as in "here's what services we fund, so do you or don't you meet the eligibility criteria?"  

By losing the aging assessment focus of the current Department of Aging, it seems likely the state would compromise, and perhaps lose entirely, the independent thinking and opportunity for critical needs-based assessment.

Several elder-focused organizations have raised these and other key points in opposition to the existing budget-based consolidation proposal.  Those active in the debate include:

  • The Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (PAELA)  has asked thoughtful legislators to "oppose such consolidation" as presented in the current budget proposal.   As Pittsburgh Elder Law attorney Julian Gray testified on May 1 in state Senate hearings, a "bigger" agency is not necessarily a "better" agency. 
  • Representatives for the service organization for Pennsylvania senior service workers, P4A, testified strongly in favor of the role of the Department of Aging as the advocate for the "unique needs of seniors."  Speakers focused too on the Department's historical role in protecting and managing a unique funding stream dedicated to seniors, "lottery" funds.
  • Long-time practitioner and elder law guru, Jeff Marshall, has a comprehensive commentary, with links, detailing the history and importance of Pennsylvania's Department of Aging.  There's a simple bottom line expressed here -- "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  
  • Related articles

May 23, 2017 in Consumer Information, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 22, 2017

NAELA Chapter Joins as Amicus for New York Aid in Dying Case

In what is described as a "first" for the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), the organization through its New York Chapter will present argument on behalf of individuals seeking to establish access to "aid in dying."  On April 27, the New York Chapter was granted leave to appear as amicus curiae in Myers v. Schneiderman before the New York Court of Appeals.  Oral arguments are scheduled in Albany on May 30, 2017.

At issue is New York's penal law prohibiting assistance in "suicides."  The original suit, filed in February 2015, sought a ruling that the statute, characterized by opponents as "antiquated," should be interpreted as not reaching the conduct of a physician that provides aid-in-dying where the patient is terminally ill and mentally competent and voluntarily seeks "terminal medication."  Alternatively, the opponents of the law argue that the statute violates the rights of privacy and/or equal protection guaranteed by the New York State Constitution. New York's trial level court dismissed the challenge as a matter of law, on the grounds that New York's penal law was "clear on its face."  

In joining the challenge to the dismissal, which was affirmed by  appellate division, New York NAELA wrote:

As an organization of lawyers who represent the elderly and persons with disabilities, the New York Chapter [of NAELA] believes that a proper interpretation of New York's "assisted suicide" laws and due consideration of Appellants' constitutional challenges should be based on a fully developed factual record.  These are issues of great moment to the elderly and those who love them and to the administration of justice in this State.  This Court should have the benefit of a hearing and findings of relevant evidence before deciding them. . . .

What would assist this Court in fairly construing the Penal Law are facts relating to aid-in-dying.  While the language of the statute is the starting point for interpretation, its words do not exist in a vacuum.   

For more on the arguments, including links to the various parties' appellate briefs in Myers, see the "End of Life Liberty Project."

 

May 22, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Science, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Pennsylvania Governor Pushes State Merger of Departments of Aging, Health, Human Services and Drug & Alcohol

I'm on a crash course of "catching up" now that I am back in Pennsylvania, having been away on sabbatical for the last academic year and living (mostly) in Arizona.  On May 9 I participated in a "Day on the Hill" event in Harrisburg, sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association in Pennsylvania.

To kick off the afternoon sessions, Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne, along with Deputy Secretary of Health Corey Coleman, spoke in support  of Pennsylvania Governor Wolf's plan to merge operations of four separate state departments, that of Aging, Health, Human Services (formerly Public Welfare) and Drug and Alcohol Programs into a single department called Department of Health and Human Services.  The timeline for this decision is looming, as the Pennsylvania Legislature's budget session is scheduled to end on June 30. 

Secretary Osborne pointed out that overlapping programs between the different departments complicate the ability of the state to serve related interests.  For example, "protective services" are administered by separate units for children, disabled adults, and older adults.  While acknowledging cost savings from consolidation is certainly one goal -- as the state is in an on-going budget crisis -- Secretary Osborne expressed her strong support for a clearer organizational chart, as a way to clarify and meet the needs of Pennsylvanians on common issues.

The Alzheimer's Association is not taking a position on the consolidation, instead focusing on the state's accountability and continued or enhanced dedication to serving impaired Pennsylvanians and their families, especially caregiver family members.

For more on Pennsylvania Tom Wolf's budget plan as it affects seniors, see the PA website on the Budget Documents.  And as anyone knows who follows Pennsylvania legislative sessions, the real language and details are likely to emerge in the wee hours of the session, following a lot of horse-trading.  

May 11, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

War on Elder Financial Exploitation

The New York Times ran a story a few days ago about preventing financial exploitation. Declaring War on Financial Abuse of Older People starts with the story of a woman who acts when she finds out her grandmother had lost her life savings. (Just fyi, her grandmother's case was featured in a story in the New York Times in 2015). The woman didn't stop with just her grandmother's case, however. First she pushed to get action for her grandmother. Then, the story explains, she "[became] an activist, traveling around her home state of Washington to lecture and testify about the financial exploitation of older Americans. She has also become a lobbyist, exhorting state lawmakers to pass legislation that would toughen penalties for people who take financial advantage of vulnerable older people like her grandmother."

The article notes the variations among state financial exploitation statutes and how some states don't have specific elder financial exploitation statutes

A number of states have laws like this on the books, but they vary widely. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks such laws, this type of financial abuse is an active topic in state capitals. Last year, 33 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, considered measures against the illegal or improper use of seniors’ money, property or assets, in addition to fraud or identity theft targeting the older people.

Some states have shored up their existing laws. Last year, Idaho revised its definition of neglect of vulnerable adults to include exploitation. Illinois extended the statute of limitations to seven years from three for prosecuting a person accused of taking financial advantage of an older person or a person with disabilities.

Also, last year, Alabama passed the Protection of Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation Act, to add a layer of protection to existing laws by requiring brokers and investment advisers who believe a vulnerable adult is being exploited to notify the Human Resources Department and the Alabama Securities Commission.

In those states without the specific statutes, convictions come with lesser penalties than those with specific elder financial exploitation statutes. "Stiffer penalties are necessary to combat a growing drain on the savings of those 60 and over, according to the National Center for Elder Abuse, a federal clearinghouse. In 2015, in Washington state alone, there were nearly 8,000 complaints to adult protective services about financial exploitation, a more than 70 percent increase over 2010. And such crimes are likely to climb simply because the retiree population is growing."

The article also discusses efforts at the federal level, including the Elder Justice Act and the efforts of the Department of Justice.

Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for bringing the article to our attention. Congratulations to Naomi and her co-author Amy Ziettlow on the publication of their book, Homeward Bound: Modern Families, Elder Care, and Loss.

April 16, 2017 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Financial Services Response to Fighting Financial Exploitation

We all know that financial exploitation is a serious and significant problem in the U.S.  I was interested in this article from Investment News detailing efforts that the financial services industry and others are taking to help their elder clients protect themselves from financial exploitation. Advisers taking steps to protect elderly explains although "[t]here's widespread acceptance in the financial services industry that elderly financial abuse is a growing problem, but there's no universally accepted game plan for how to respond... Many times firms' internal procedures will involve adviser education and training, and gathering third-party contact information for accounts."  The article highlights the efforts of Wells Fargo Advisors which the article explains: "Wells Fargo launched an 11-member team more than two years ago within its compliance department that serves as an internal clearinghouse and case manager when advisers see a potential problem with a client. ... The unit has taken about 4,000 reports from the field, about half of which were incidences of abuse. Wells' Elder Care Initiatives often involves state adult protective services or securities regulators in the matters.:

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has also launched efforts to help protect their elder clients, according to the article. For example, one step Merrill Lynch has taken is to have "created a contact authorization form that gives advisers a trusted person to reach out to in case of suspected fraud or to obtain more information about behavioral changes linked to possible exploitation."

The article also highlights the efforts of Morgan Stanley, Charles Schwab, Edward Jones, and Fidelity Investments.  As for smaller firms, they aren't lagging behind.  For example, "[s]maller firms also are responding to the elder-abuse threat. For more than a year, Romano Wealth Management has had in place steps that its nine advisers follow in reporting potential abuse to the compliance officer, who then decides whether to involve adult protective services or regulators."

The article also discusses the efforts at the federal level. "The industry is starting to get protection from regulators. In February, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. rule designed to curb elder abuse. It requires brokers to make “reasonable efforts” to identify a “trusted contact” for investment accounts. It also permits them to prevent the disbursement of funds from the account and to notify the contact if the broker suspects the client is an abuse victim." The article also mentions several states that have passed laws that require investment advisors to notify APS as well as state regulators if financial exploitation is suspected.

The article discusses some other efforts and provides a good picture of various efforts taking place both by legislation and industry efforts.

 

April 6, 2017 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

More on Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch on End-of-Life Issues

Paula Span, the thoughtful columnist on aging issues from the New York Times, offers "Gorsuch Staunchly Opposes "Aid-in-Dying." Does It Matter?"   The article suggests that the "real" battle over aid-in-dying will be in state courts, not the Supreme Court.

I'm in the middle of reading Judge Gorsuch's 2006 book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. There are many things to say about this book, not the least of which is the impressive display of the Judge's careful sorting of facts, legal history and legal theory to analyze the various advocacy approaches to end-of-life decisions, with or without the assistance of third-parties.  

With respect to what might reach the Supreme Court Court, he writes (at page 220 of the paperback edition): 

The [Supreme Court's] preference for state legislative experimentation in Gonzales [v. Oregon] seems, at the end of the day, to leave the state of the assisted suicide debate more or less where the Court found it, with the states free to resolve the question for themselves.  Even so, it raises interesting questions for at least two future sorts of cases one might expect to emerge in the not-too-distant future.  The first sort of cases are "as applied" challenges asserting a constitutional right to assist suicide or euthanasia limited to some particular group, such as the terminally ill or perhaps those suffering grave physical (or maybe even psychological) pain....

 

The second sort of cases involve those like Lee v. Oregon..., asserting that laws allowing assisted suicide violate the equal protection guarantee...."

While most of the book is a meticulous analysis of law and policy, in the end he also seems to signal a personal concern, writing "Is it possible that the Journal of Clinical Oncology study is right and the impulse for assistance in suicide, like the impulse for old-fashioned suicide, might more often than not be the result of an often readily treatable condition?" 

My thanks to New York attorney, now Florida resident, Karen Miller for pointing us to the NYT article.

February 28, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Religion, Science, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Washington State Discusses Expansion of Limited License Legal Technicians to Estate & Health Care Law

In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court approved Admission to Practice Rule 28, which created a new program for authorization of "limited license legal technicians," also known as LLLTs or "Triple L-Ts." The express purpose of the program was to meet the legal needs of under-served members of the public with qualified, affordable legal professionals, and the first area of practice chosen was domestic relations.  With that first experience in hand, in January 2017, the Washington State Bar Association has formally proposed expansion of the LLLT program to enable service to clients on "estate and health law."  

As described in the Washington State Bar Association materials, this expansion will include "aspects of estate planning, probate, guardianship, health care law, and government benefits. LLLTs licensed to practice in this area will be able to provide a wide range of services to those grappling with issues that disproportionately affect seniors but also touch people of all ages who are disabled, planning ahead for major life changes, or dealing with the death of a relative."  The comment period is now open on the proposed expansion.

For more about this important innovation, there was an excellent 90 minute-long webinar hosted by the Washington Bar in February 2017, with members of the Limited License Legal Technician Board explaining the ethical rules (including mandatory malpractice insurance), three years of education and 3000 hours of experience required for LLLTs to qualify.  Now available as a recording, the comments from the Webinar audience, including lawyers concerned about the potential impact on their own practice areas, are especially interesting.  

Many thanks to modern practice-trends guru, Professor Laurel Terry at Dickinson Law, for helping us to keep abreast of the Washington state innovation. 

February 24, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

North Carolina Appeals Ct Declines to Recognize Pre-Death Cause of Action for Tortious Interference with Expectancy

An interesting decision addressing standing issues arising in the context of a family battle over an 87-year old parent's assets was issued by the North Carolina Court of Appeals on February 21, 2017.  In Hauser v Hauser, the court nicely summarizes its own ruling (with my highlighting below): 

This appeal presents the issues of whether (1) North Carolina law recognizes a cause of action for tortious interference with an expected inheritance by a potential beneficiary during the lifetime of the testator; and (2) in cases where a living parent has grounds to bring claims for constructive fraud or breach of fiduciary duty such claims may be brought instead by a child of the parent based upon her anticipated loss of an expected inheritance. [Daughter] Teresa Kay Hauser (“Plaintiff”) appeals from the trial court's 3 March 2016 order granting the motion to dismiss of [Son] Darrell S. Hauser and [Son's Wife] Robin E. Whitaker Hauser (collectively “Defendants”) as to her claims for tortious interference with an expected inheritance, constructive fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty as well as her request for an accounting. Because Plaintiff's claims for relief are not legally viable in light of the facts she has alleged, we affirm the trial court's order.

The succinct North Carolina opinion, declines to follow the logic of Harmon v. Harmon, a 1979 decision from the Maine Supreme Court, that addressed the "frontier of the expanding field" on torious interfence of with an advantageous relationship, by recognizing a "pre-death" cause of action. 

Currently the North Carolina opinion is available on Westlaw at 2017 WL 672176; I'll update this post with a open access link if it becomes available.  

February 23, 2017 in Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Texas Elder Abuse Statute Used to Convict and Sentence Doctor to Life in Prison

The deeply disturbing medical practice history of Christopher Duntsch, who worked as a neurosurgeon in Texas until 2013, culminated in his February 2017 conviction and sentence of life in prison for his injuries to a 74-year old patient.  It is relatively rare for medical "malpractice" cases to lead to criminal charges, but as detailed in news articles covering the trial, there was strong, adverse medical testimony about how Duntsch's improper surgical procedures caused a horrific outcome.

Initially accusing Duntsch of criminal acts arising in the context of surgical procedures to several of his patients, the prosecution ultimately focused the criminal trial on his 2012 spinal surgery on a single patient under Texas Penal Code Section 22.04, for "Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual." The pertinent portion of the statute provides:

"(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence, by act . . . causes to a . . . elderly individual . . . : (1) serious bodily injury."      

The offense becomes a first degree felony, if it is proven that the conduct was "committed intentionally or knowingly." If the conduct had been "only" reckless, the offense would be a felony of the second degree.

Under the statute, an "elderly individual" is defined as a "person 65 year of age or older." 

In a Washington Post article on the conviction, a Texas attorney is quoted:

“I cannot recall a physician being indicted for aggravated assault for acts committed during surgery,” Toby Shook, a Dallas defense attorney who spent 23 years working as a Dallas County prosecutor, told the magazine. “And not just Dallas County — I don’t recall hearing about it anywhere.”

February 21, 2017 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

DC Aid-in-Dying Law Final

As we had blogged previously, D.C. city council had passed an aid-in-dying law that was signed by the mayor. Congress had 30 days to overturn it and as we also blogged previously, that at least one Congressman attempted to overturn it. The 30 days expired last week, and the law became effective on February 18, 2017.  Washington, D.C., now seventh place in U.S. to officially legalize assisted suicide  explains that this means that "D.C. became the seventh jurisdiction in the U.S. to legalize assisted suicide on Saturday, as the Republican-controlled Congress failed to block the law."  Although there was a resolution from the House Oversight Committee, the resolution wasn't voted on by the House, so the law became effective.

 

February 21, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 20, 2017

How Do "Domestic Partnerships" Fare for Elderly Couples?

George Washington Law Professor Naomi Cahn recommended an interesting new article from the Elder Law Journal, "The Precarious Status of Domestic Partnerships for the Elderly  in a Post-Obergefell World."

Authors Heidi Brady, who is clerking for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson from the University of Illinois College of Law, team to analyze key ways in which elderly couples in domestic partnerships may be treated differently, and sometimes more adversely, than same sex couples who are married.  From the abstract: 

Three states face a particularly thorny question post-Obergefell [v. Hodges, the Supreme Court's 2015 decision recognizing rights to marry]: what should be done with domestic partnerships made available to elderly same-sex and straight couples at a time when same-sex couples could not marry. This article examines why California, New Jersey, and Washington opened domestic partnerships to elderly couples. . . . This Article drills down on three specific obligations and benefits tied to marriage -- receipt of alimony, Social Security spousal benefits, and duties to support a partner who needs long-term care under the Medicaid program -- and shows that entering a domestic partnership rather than marrying does not benefit all elderly couples; rather, the value of avoiding marriage varies by wealth and benefit. 

Thank you, Naomi, for this recommendation.  

February 20, 2017 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More on Aid-in-Dying

We reported previously that DC had passed an aid-in-dying bill but that there were those in Congress who expressed an intent to overturn it. But it's not just the DC scenario that has advocates concerned.  Kaiser Health News ran an article, Aid-In-Dying Advocates, Disheartened By Supreme Court Pick, Brace For New Fight. The article, part of KHN's morning briefing, summaries articles from other publications about Judge Gorsuch's book and his position on aid-in-dying. Click here to access those articles.

While we're on the subject, also check out this article from KHN on Aid-in-Dying Laws Don’t Guarantee That Patients Can Choose To Die, discussing patient access in those states with aid-in-dying laws (we'd previously discussed this in an article from the Denver Post).

February 14, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Hospitals Opting Out-Colorado Aid-In-Dying

The Denver Post ran an article recently that some Colorado hospitals are opting out of the new aid-in-dying law.  About 30 hospitals opting out of Colorado’s medical aid-in-dying law, Three major health systems have announced they will not participate explains that

Up to 30 Colorado hospitals are opting out of the state’s new medical aid-in-dying law, either fully or in part, but whether that means the doctors they employ are banned from writing life-ending prescriptions is a controversy that could wind up in court.

At this point, terminally ill Coloradans who want to end their lives under the law will need to find out whether their physicians are allowed to participate.

The article explains that whether the ban applies to doctors for those hospitals depends on the hospital. For example, one hospital group has said  that the doctors could "talk to their patients about aid in dying and can write life-ending prescriptions in a hospital. But hospital pharmacies will not fill those prescriptions and patients are not allowed to take their own lives in the hospital, which health officials figure is an unlikely request anyway." The proponents of the law take a different view on whether the ban prevents the doctors from writing the prescriptions, but indicate litigation may be needed to decide the matter.

The article explains the provision of the law

The law says a hospital may prohibit an employed or contracted physician from writing a prescription for someone “who intends to use the aid-in-dying medication on the facility’s premises.” It also makes clear that a healthcare provider can choose whether to participate in medical aid in dying and that the provider must transfer the patient’s medical records to a new health care provider if requested.

With the different interpretation of the law, it may be that litigation will be necessary to figure this out. Stay tuned.

January 30, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Update on D.C. Physician-Aided Dying Law

We blogged previously that D.C.'s mayor signed the physician-aided dying bill that was then sent to Congress. According to a January 9, 2017 article in the Washington Post, Congressman plans to block D.C. law to let terminally ill patients end their lives, "Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said ...  he’ll use rarely invoked congressional authority to block a new law passed by the D.C. Council to allow doctors to help end the lives of terminally ill patients in the city"  by the end of January.  The article notes that it's rare for Congress to block a D.C. law.   On January 12, 2017 Senator Lankford and Representative Wenstrup (Oklahoma and Ohio respectively) introduced resolutions to block the law.

Stay tuned.

January 20, 2017 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

UCLA Prof. Allison Hoffman on "Reimagining the Risk of Long-Term Care"

With the new Presidential administration ahead, many of us are asking what government policies or programs will be "re-imagined."  With changes on the horizon, an especially interesting perspective on long-term care is offered by UCLA Law Professor Allison Hoffman with her recent article, "Reimagining the Risk of Long-Term Care,"  published in the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law & Ethics. From the abstract:

While attempting to mitigate care-recipient risk, in fact, the law has steadily expanded next-friend risk, by reinforcing a structure of long-term care that relies heavily on informal caregiving. Millions of informal caregivers face financial and nonmonetary harms that deeply threaten their own long-term security. These harms are disproportionately experienced by people who are already vulnerable--women, minorities, and the poor. Scholars and policymakers have catalogued and critiqued these costs but treat them as an unfortunate byproduct of an inevitable system of informal care.
 
 
This Article argues that if we, instead, understand becoming responsible for the care of another as a social risk--just as we see the chance that a person will need long-term care as a risk--it could fundamentally shift the way we approach long-term care policy.
 
Professor Hoffman examines various ways in which society expects third parties, including but not limited to family members as "next friends," to provide unpaid assistance and/or out-of-pocket dollars to disabled adults or seniors needing help.  She writes, for example, about filial support laws used sporadically to compel certain family members to finance care.  She observes that often, without direct personal experience, society members are unaware of the real costs of long-term care, both financially and emotionally, writing: 
 
As one informal caregiver and scholar described: “I feel abandoned by a health care system that commits resources and rewards to rescuing the injured and the ill but then consigns such patients and their families to the black hole of chronic ‘custodial’ care.” What next friends do for others is herculean, both in terms of the time spent and the ways that they offer assistance.
 
Recommended reading for the new year.  

January 17, 2017 in Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Social Security, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Should All States Permit Use of Medicaid for Assisted Living?

The plight of 108-year-old Ohio resident Carrie Rausch, facing the prospect of losing her spot in an assisted living community because she's run out of money, is generating a lot of attention in the media, including People magazine.  Some states, such as New Jersey, have expanded the options for public assistance in senior living -- beyond nursing homes -- to permit eligible individuals to use Medicaid for residential care.  Assisted living is usually much less expensive than a nursing home; but the pool of individuals who would might opt for assisted living rather than the "dreaded" nursing home is also larger.   Ohio, along with many states, hasn't gone the AL route:  

If Rausch can’t raise the money needed, she’ll have to leave what has been her home for the past three years and move into a nursing home that accepts Medicaid.

[Daughter] Hatfield worries about the toll the move would take on her mom, who is more lively and active than most people 10 or even 20 years her junior. . . . “We need a miracle,” she says.

Ms Rausch's adult daughter -- herself in her late 60s -- has turned to GoFundMe to attempt to raise the $40k needed for a year of continued residence, and as of the date of this Blog post, more than 700 donors have responded.  

At a deeper level, however, this story reveals important questions about public funding for long-term care on a state-by-state basis. This funding issue is repeating itself throughout the country for seniors much younger than the frugal and relatively healthy Carrie Rausch.  On a national basis, GoFundMe "miracles" seem an impractical solution.

January 13, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Should Home Care Providers Be Permitted to Seek Broad Waivers of Liability from Elderly Clients? (And if so, are there clear standards for a knowing waiver?}

Recently an attorney wrote to me about an elderly client who had been victimized by a home care worker hired through an agency; the allegations included physical abuse, intimidation, identity theft, failure to provide care, theft of personal possessions and false imprisonment.  Not too surprisingly, the specific worker was long gone once the harm was discovered by non-resident family members.  Significantly, the family also learned that the mother had signed the agency's standard contract withtwo pages of single-spaced type that covered everything from hours to wages, and which included a numbered paragraph purporting to grant a broad waiver of the agency's liability for actions of the individuals sent to the home of the elderly client. Key language provided:

"CLIENT and/or CLIENT's agent/responsible party agrees on behalf of CLIENT, CLIENT's agent/responsible party, beneficiaries, heirs, and/or family/household members to release [agency], owner, officers, directors, agents and employees, office, office directors, office employees, and Caregiver from any and all liability, potential or real, for any injury, claim, damage, or loss, including attorney's fees, incurred in connection with the performance of this agreement and all services, incurred in connection with the performance of this agreement and all services performed by Caregiver for the CLIENT, including but no limited to assisting CLIENT with his/her medications and providing transportation to Client or any member of CLIENT's family/household, except for gross negligence...."  

The attorney asked about any state regulatory language that would limit liability waivers or require, at a minimum, bold faced type or large type for such attempted waivers when used with elderly or disabled clients. Those receiving home care may be uniquely vulnerable to unwitnessed abuse, and also less likely to report abuse because of the fear of the "worse" alternative, a nursing home.   In the state in question, regulations  require certain disclosures to be made in a form "easily read and understood," but the regulations don't specifically address (nor prohibit) waivers of the company's liability. See e.g. PA Code Section 611.57.    

What about in your state? Is there relevant regulation? Alternatively, is there a "best" (or at least better) practice in the home care industry when seeking contractual waivers of liability?  The issue reminds me of an article written in the mid-1990s by Charlie Sabbatino discussing the one-sided nature of nursing home contracts in the absence of careful regulation protecting patient rights.  He wrote:

Broadly worded waivers of liability for personal injury are likely to be unenforceable and void as a matter of public policy in most states. Residents are most commonly asked to consent to absolute waivers for injury caused by other patients or by independent contractors in the facility, or for injury occurring outside of the facility, such as on a field trip. Federal and state nursing home laws have not squarely addressed personal injury waivers. even though the whole thrust of the regulatory framework is expressly intended to set standards for the protection of residents' health, safety, and welfare.

And the subtitle of the article on Nursing Home Contracts is "Undermining Rights the Older Fashioned Way." 

January 12, 2017 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Oregon Supreme Court Rejects Medicaid Estate Recovery for Asset Transfers between Spouses

In late December 2016, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that state efforts to use Medicaid Estate Recovery regulations to reach assets transferred between spouses prior to application were improper. In Nay v. Department of Human Services, __ P.3d ___, 360 Or. 668, 2016 WL 7321752, (Dec. 15, 2016), the Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the ruling of the state's intermediate appellate court (discussed here in our Blog in 2014).  The high court concluded:

Because “estate” is defined to include any property interest that a Medicaid recipient held at the time of death, the department asserted that the Medicaid recipient had a property interest that would reach those transfers. In doing so, it relied on four sources: the presumption of common ownership in a marital dissolution, the right of a spouse to claim an elective share under probate law, the ability to avoid a transfer made without adequate consideration, and the ability to avoid a transfer made with intent to hinder or prevent estate recovery. In all instances, the rule amendments departed from the legal standards expressed or implied in those sources of law. Accordingly, the rule amendments exceeded the department's statutory authority under ORS 183.400(4)(b). The Court of Appeals correctly held the rule amendments to be invalid.

Our thanks to Elder Law Attorney Tim Nay for keeping us up to date on this case.  His firm's Blog further reports on the effects of the final ruling in Oregon:

"Estate recovery claims that were held pending the outcome of the Nay case can now be finalized, denying the claim to the extent it seeks recovery against assets that the Medicaid recipient did not have a legal ownership interest in at the time of death. Estate recovery claims that were settled during the pendency of Nay contained a provision that the settlement agreement was binding on all parties to the agreement no matter the outcome in Nay and thus cannot be revisited."

January 10, 2017 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)