HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

It’s the End of the World as We Know It*

Now that we survived the end of the world predicted for last month, we can focus on the implications of the upcoming “11:11:11 11/11/11,” a repeating single digit time-and-date sequence that will not be repeated for another century that some see as another doomsday date, while others view it as an auspicious occasion for getting married  or having a child.  

Which got me thinking about possible once-in-a-lifetime health-related events of interest to law professors (which should not be confused with “never events,” a focus of health care reform for a number of years now). The generally accepted and what might seem to be relatively straightforward related truism is that we all experience one death (but see the end of the world prediction above) and one birth.  

Except voters in Mississippi will decide on Tuesday whether to adopt Initiative 26 and change when life begins to “the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."  It has been noted that:

 [This] amendment [to the Mississippi Constitution], if passed, will make it impossible [in Mississippi] to get an abortion and hamper the ability to get some forms of birth control. . . . Because the amendment would define a fertilized egg as a person, it could have an impact on a woman's ability to get the morning-after pill or birth control pills that destroy fertilized eggs, and it could make in vitro fertilization treatments more difficult because it could become illegal to dispose of unused fertilized eggs.  This could [also] lead to a nationwide debate about women's rights and abortion while setting up a possible challenge to the landmark Roe v. Wade case, which makes abortion legal.

It also raises the intriguing question of whether everyone in Mississippi will now have two birthdays to celebrate, an eventuality my children would probably gladly embrace if it doubles the number of presents they receive every year.  So much for my effort to identify once-in-a-lifetime health-law-related events.  Of course there is always the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will decide to review The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, although even that is not a certainty, see here.

- Thomas L. Hafemeister


* The title of a song by the influential American band R.E.M., which coincidentally (or not) announced this fall that it was breaking up after thirty-one years together.  See here.

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