Background and Aims
The ageing US population is providing an unprecedented population of older adults who use recreational drugs. We aimed to estimate the trends in the prevalence of past-year use of cannabis, describe the patterns and attitudes and determine correlates of cannabis use by adults age 50 years and older....
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
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).
Monday, January 30, 2017
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.
Friday, January 20, 2017
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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)
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
The mayor of DC signed aid-in-dying legislation for the District which now has to be sent to Congress for a 30 day review period. Bowser quietly signs legislation allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives explains that the law is based on Oregon's statute. Congress has 30 days to approve or override it, Washington, D.C., Approves Aid-in-Dying Bill.
Monday, December 26, 2016
Attorney Tim Nay ( NAELA's first president by the way), recently posted on listservs about the Oregon Supreme Court's opinion on the state Medicaid agency's rules regarding estate recovery. The Oregon Supreme Court, in Nay v. Department of Human Services, affirmed the court of appeals decision that the administrative rules were invalid:
In 2008, the department amended its administrative rules regarding the scope of that recovery. The amended rules allow the department to recover the payments from assets that the recipient had transferred to a spouse up to five years before a person applies for Medicaid. Pursuant to ORS 183.400, petitioner Tim Nay sought judicial review of those rule amendments in the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals agreed with petitioner that the amendments were invalid ... and the department sought review. As we will explain, we conclude that the rule amendments are invalid under ORS 183.400(4)(b) because they exceed the department’s statutory authority. Accordingly, we affirm the Court of Appeals. (citations omitted).
After reviewing state family law and probate law (elective share) and the arguments advanced by the Department of Human Services, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded
The department promulgated rule amendments that allow it to obtain estate recovery from transfers made to a spouse within the five years before a person applies for Medicaid. Our standard for judicial review is whether the department exceeded its statutory authority ..., and more specifically whether the rule amendments depart from a legal standard expressed or implied in the particular law being administered.... 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..... The Court of Appeals correctly held the rule amendments to be invalid. (citations omitted).
The opinion is available here.
Congrats Tim and thanks for letting us know!
Sunday, December 25, 2016
The National Center for State Courts, in conjunction with the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) released its Strategic Action Plan 2016 Adult Guardianship Initiative which was adopted on December 1, 2016. According to the report "[t]he mission of the Adult Guardianship Initiative is to improve state court responses to guardianship and conservatorship matters. This Initiative encourages the use of less restrictive alternatives, the prioritization of the protected person’s individual rights, active court monitoring and oversight, the modernization of processes, and the restoration of rights."
The initiative has 4 goals:
Develop and maintain a partnership of key stakeholders ...
Prioritize the protection and enhancement of individual rights ...
Promote modernization and transparency in the guardianship process ...
Enhance guardianship/conservatorship court processes and oversight ...
The initiative also lists several concept projects: (1) Funding and Implementing a Guardianship Court Improvement Program; (2) Conservatorship/Guardianship Accountability Project: Building a National Resource that uses Technology and Analytics to Modernize the Process; (3) National Summit for Courts on Improving Adult Guardianship Practices; (4) Establishing Judicial Response Protocols to Address Guardianship Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation; (5)Developing a Mentor Guardianship Court Program; and (6) Building a Research Portfolio and Developing Court Performance Management Systems.
Visit the Center for Elders and the Courts for more information.
December 25, 2016 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, December 22, 2016
Kaiser Health News reported that "a coalition of emergency and social service providers is working to create an electronic registry for POLST forms so they will be available to first responders and medical providers when they are needed. The group is starting with a three-year pilot project in San Diego and Contra Costa counties that could serve as a model for a single, statewide registry. Paper-based POLST forms are used across the nation, but electronic registries exist only in a few states, including Oregon, New York and West Virginia."
The article, California Tests Electronic Database For End-Of-Life Wishes, explains that the registry is envisioned as a cloud-based portal where the providers would load the forms. The advantage, of course, is that the provider would have access to the POLST regardless of the patient's location. Since multiple agencies are involved, there are some hurdles to overcome to make this a reality. One expert quoted in the article prefers that the registry be expanded to include advance directives as well as POLST forms.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Last week Colorado's governor signed the medical aid-in-dying bill on December 16, 2016. The law went into effect immediately, according to an article in the Denver Post, Colorado medical-aid-in-dying law signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, takes effect immediately. The law had strong support from voters. The week before the Governor signed the bill into law, the Denver Post ran an article that many folks in Colorado were already making inquiries about requesting the prescriptions. The article noted that the request form for those patients with terminal illness has been made "available on the Compassion & Choices website. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will keep the form, along with an attending-physician form, and track the number of people who seek to use the law."
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Baby boomers are getting high in increasing numbers, reflecting growing acceptance of the drug as treatment for various medical conditions, according to a study published Monday in the journal Addiction.
The findings reveal overall use among the 50-and-older study group increased “significantly” from 2006 to 2013. Marijuana users peaked between ages 50 to 64, then declined among the 65-and-over crowd.
The article notes that the researchers call for more study regarding the long-term effects of the use of pot and that health care providers should be careful to not assume that an elder doesn't use drugs: "Joseph Palamar, a professor at the NYU medical school and a co-author of the study, said the findings reinforce the need for research and a call for providers to screen the elderly for drug use... 'They shouldn’t just assume that someone is not a drug user because they’re older,” Palamar said."
The article discusses the disparity of approaches between states that have legalized marijuana use and the federal government position.
The push and pull between state and federal governments has resulted in varying degrees of legality across the United States. Palamar says this variation places populations at risk of unknowingly breaking the law and getting arrested for drug possession. The issue poses one of the biggest public health concerns associated with marijuana, Palamar says.
But unlike the marijuana of their youth, seniors living in states that legalized marijuana for medicinal use now can access a drug that has been tested for quality and purity, said Paul Armentano deputy director of NORML, a non-profit group advocating for marijuana legalization. Additionally, the plant is prescribed to manage diseases that usually strike in older age, pointing to an increasing desire to take a medication that has less side effects than traditional prescription drugs.
The full article, Demographic trends among older cannabis users in the United States, 2006–13 is available for a fee here. The abstract explains
The prevalence of past-year cannabis use among adults aged ≥ 50 increased significantly from 2006/07 to 2012/13, with a 57.8% relative increase for adults aged 50–64 (linear trend P < 0.001) and a 250% relative increase for those aged ≥ 65 (linear trend P = 0.002). When combining data from 2006 to 2013, 6.9% of older cannabis users met criteria for cannabis abuse or dependence, and the majority of the sample reported perceiving no risk or slight risk associated with monthly cannabis use (85.3%) or weekly use (79%). Past-year users were more likely to be younger, male, non-Hispanic, not have multiple chronic conditions and use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs compared with non-past-year cannabis users.
The prevalence of cannabis use has increased significantly in recent years among US adults aged ≥ 50 years.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
We blogged earlier about the discussion regarding switching Medicaid to block grants. The impact of doing so would be far reaching and the Commonwealth Fund released an issue brief, What Would Block Grants or Limits on Per Capita Spending Mean for Medicaid?
Here is the abstract from the issue brief:
Issue: President-elect Trump and some in Congress have called for establishing absolute limits on the federal government’s spending on Medicaid, not only for the population covered through the Affordable Care Act’s eligibility expansion but for the program overall. Such a change would effectively reverse a 50-year trend of expanding Medicaid in order to protect the most vulnerable Americans. Goal: To explore the two most common proposals for reengineering federal funding of Medicaid: block grants that set limits on total annual spending regardless of enrollment, and caps that limit average spending per enrollee. Methods: Review of existing policy proposals and other documents. Key findings and conclusions: Current proposals for dramatically reducing federal spending on Medicaid would achieve this goal by creating fixed-funding formulas divorced from the actual costs of providing care. As such, they would create funding gaps for states to either absorb or, more likely, offset through new limits placed on their programs. As a result, block-granting Medicaid or instituting “per capita caps” would most likely reduce the number of Americans eligible for Medicaid and narrow coverage for remaining enrollees. The latter approach would, however, allow for population growth, though its desirability to the new president and Congress is unclear. The full extent of funding and benefit reductions is as yet unknown.
The article provides history, data and discusses strategies. The Brief concludes that the issue, and the resulting outcomes, are not as simple as may be presented.
As the country’s largest insurer, Medicaid is subject to the same cost drivers that affect all providers of health insurance: population growth and demographic trends that increase enrollment, health trends that influence how often people need care and what kind of care they require, and advances in technology that drive up costs, among other factors. But unlike commercial insurers, government-funded Medicaid, in its role as first responder and safety net, is more vulnerable to these trends and to cost increases. For more than 50 years, Medicaid has been rooted in a flexible federal–state partnership, constantly restructured over time to meet current challenges.
Any attempt to restructure federal financing for Medicaid and replace flexibility with strict spending limits—whether in the form of block grants, per capita limits on spending, restrictions on what counts as state expenditures, or a combination of all three—would divorce funding considerations from the real-life needs that have informed federal and state Medicaid policy for half a century. Crucially, a per capita cap would permit population growth to occur. But the limit of lawmakers’ appetite for continued growth in enrollment is unclear. Given how states responded to the relatively mild and temporary funding reductions the federal government enacted in 1981, sweeping changes like those currently under consideration are likely to produce far more substantial fallout.
The 10 page issue brief can be downloaded as a pdf here.
Monday, November 21, 2016
Medicaid block grants...again? Not only is Medicare in the spotlight for revamp, so too is Medicaid. Kaiser Health News reported this in Millions Could Lose Medicaid Coverage Under Trump Plan. The article explains
One major change endorsed by both Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would transform Medicaid from an entitlement program into a block grant program.
Here’s the difference. In an entitlement program, coverage is guaranteed for everyone who’s eligible. The federal government’s commitment to help states cover costs is open-ended. The states’ obligation is to cover certain groups of people and to provide specific benefits. Children and pregnant women who meet specific income criteria must be covered, for example.
The article notes that this isn't the first time that block grants for Medicaid has been proposed. "Turning Medicaid into a block grant program has been discussed for more than 25 years, but the idea has always met resistance from some states, health providers, health care advocates and Democrats. Even with a Republican majority in Congress and Trump in the White House, the plan would still face an uphill legislative battle."
And don't forget the statements regarding undoing the Affordable Care Act:
The biggest risk for Medicaid beneficiaries comes from pledges by Trump and other Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provided federal funding to states to expand Medicaid eligibility starting in 2014. Thirty-one states and Washington, D.C. did so, adding 15.7 million people to the program, according to the government. About 73 million are now enrolled in Medicaid — about half are children.
The article focuses on some of the other options that may be considered in determining whether to make changes to Medicaid.
All these proposed changes are a lot to take in. So hang on and stay tuned.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Save the Date: February 13, 2017, the 6th Annual Health Law Conference at Florida State University. This year's conference is titled Patients as Consumers: The Impact of Health Care Financing & Delivery Developments on Roles, Rights, Relationships & Risks. The program's learning objectives include
Appreciate the ways in which the role of the individual who is purchasing and receiving health care services is changing from one of passive patient to that of a consumer who is expected to influence, if not determine, his or her own health care
Understand the legal and ethical ramifications of the individual’s changing role from patient to consumer for the physician and other health care providers with whom the patient/consumer maintains a professional relationship
Manage the physician’s legal responsibilities and risks associated with the changing professional relationship engendered by expectations that patients will take on a more consumer-like role regarding their own health car
Identify major developments (e.g., aggressive consolidation of health care insurers and providers into mega-entities, the incentivized development of new coordinated product delivery entities such as Accountable Care Organizations, the proliferation of electronic health records, and replacement—on both mandatory and voluntary bases—of fee-for-service arrangements by various value purchasing strategies such as Pay for Performance (P4P) and bundled payments) in contemporary U.S. health care delivery and financing
Topics include Evidence-based Medicine & Shared Decision-making, Impact of Cost Containment Initiatives on Patient Rights and Provider Liabilities, and Patient Populations at Particular Risk of Not Controlling Their Own Medical Choices.
Registration is free unless seeking CLE credits. For more information or registration, click here.
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
With just a few more days until the election, Coloradans are considering whether to vote in favor of physician aid-in-dying. Colorado Wrestles With Ethics Of Aid-In-Dying As Vote Looms published by Kaiser Health News (KHN) explains why some are supporting the measure, and others are opposing it. As well, both sides are gathering large amounts of money to support their positions:
The ballot initiative is drawing passion — and plenty of money.
According to the latest filings with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, backers have raised about $5.6 million, mostly from Compassion & Choices Action Network.
The “No Assisted Suicide Colorado” campaign has raised $2.4 million. That money is primarily coming from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver, which has donated $1.1 million, as well as other archdioceses around the country.
The Colorado Medical Society has taken a neutral position and the story offers some statistics about doctors' views of the measure, with a majority (although it's close) supporting the measure.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
The New York Times ran an article recently on individuals voluntarily refusing nutrition and hydration as a way to speed up the end of life. The VSED Exit: A Way to Speed Up Dying, Without Asking Permission focuses on individuals who voluntarily give up eating and drinking. We know that only a handful of states offer Physician-Aided Dying and even in states where that is legalized, not everyone fits within the parameters of the statute. "In end-of-life circles, [the] option [voluntarily giving up food and fluids] is called VSED (usually pronounced VEEsed), for voluntarily stopping eating and drinking. It causes death by dehydration, usually within seven to 14 days. To people with serious illnesses who want to hasten their deaths, a small but determined group, VSED can sound like a reasonable exit strategy."
The article notes that for individuals who avail themselves of VSED, no law seems to be needed (although there is still some uncertainty on that point), no court intervention is required, but the individual needs a lot of fortitude, “'It’s for strong-willed, independent people with very supportive families,' said Dr. Timothy Quill, a veteran palliative care physician at the University of Rochester Medical Center."
One unanswered question is whether VSED is "legal".
For a mentally competent patient, able to grasp and communicate decisions, probably so, said Thaddeus Pope, director of the Health Law Institute at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minn. His research has found no laws expressly prohibiting competent people from VSED, and the right to refuse medical and health care intervention is well established.
Still, he pointed out, “absence of prohibition is not the same as permission.” Health care professionals can be reluctant to become involved, because “they want a green light, and there isn’t one of those for VSED,” he added.
The question grows much murkier for patients with dementia or mental illness who have specified VSED under certain circumstances through advance directives. Several states, including Wisconsin and New York, forbid health care surrogates to stop food and fluids. (Oregon legislators, on the other hand, are considering drafting a bill to allow surrogates to withhold nutrition.)
The article reports on a recent conference and some of the issues discussed there. The article also explains that with VSED, death doesn't come as quickly as with PAD, leading to issues for patients and caregivers. The article also notes there are (or likely could be) obstacles to using VSED, such as positions taken by long term care facilities or specific religions.
This topic would be great for a class discussion.
Friday, October 21, 2016
LeadingAge, the trade association that represents nonprofit providers of senior services, begins its annual meeting at the end of October. This year's theme is "Be the Difference," a call for changing the conversation about aging. I won't be able to attend this year and I'm sorry that is true, as I am always impressed with the line-up of topics and the window the conference provides for academics into industry perspectives on common concerns. For example, this year's line up of workshops and topics includes:
- General sessions featuring Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Charles Duhigg on the "The Science of Productivity," 2013 MacArthur Fellow and psychologist Angela Duckworth on the the importance of grit and perservance for successful leadership, and famed neurosurgeon and speaker Sanjay Gupta on "Medicine and the Media."
- Hundreds of sessions, organized by "interest groups":
October 21, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Retirement, Science, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (2)
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of mandatory retirement based on age alone, whether for judges or other professions. In a perfect world, merit-based criteria should be the issue, not age. At the same time, as a full-time practicing lawyer before becoming a full-time academic, I was all too familiar with judges who stayed on the court too long. Indeed, I had the challenging (okay, make that very challenging) experience of trying to help my own father, who as a federal judge had a lifetime appointment, make the decision to retire. The whole family was involved, but it needed to happen.
During the primary elections in Pennsylvania during the spring, there was an initiative that appeared on the ballot in my voting precinct about mandatory retirement for judges. The spring initiative read:
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges and justices of the peace (known as magisterial district judges) be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years, instead of the current requirement that they be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 70?
The language, I thought, was clear, as it was a proposal to increase the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75 for members of the Pennsylvania judiciary. I voted yes, knowing that many of the most capable judges were still in their prime at 70+
However, a behind-the-scenes compromise, involving partisan politics in the state legislature, was in the works on the language, and as it turned out our primary votes simply were not counted on the above initiative. Instead, in the upcoming general election the following initiative will appear:
Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require the justices on the Supreme Court, judges, and magisterial district judges be retired on the last day of the calendar in which they attain the age of 75 years?
Does this replacement language fairly explain the choices to the average voter? I'm not the only one who thought the new language was less than candid. I was impressed by the stand taken by former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald Castille, who was in favor of the higher age and reportedly had not wanted to retire at 70, but who didn't like the hide-the-ball tactics. He joined others and challenged the language. His word for the tactic? "Deceitful."
Who had the final say on which language would be used? Ironically, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In its September ruling, the Court was split 3 to 3 on the issue, which allowed the "new" language to stand.