Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, June 19, 2017

Navy Seaman Finally Rests

BobbyUS Navy Seaman First Class Robert Monroe “Bobby” Temple, age 19, of Wathena, Kansas, died December 7, 1941 in Pearl Harbor. Temple was a casualty of the World War II bombing of the USS Oklahoma. Temple joined the Navy when he was 18 and was stationed on the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by Japan. It was only recently that the Navy was able to identify Temple’s remains through modern DNA testing. After 75 years of waiting, Temple’s family will finally have the opportunity to conduct a memorial service that truly honors Temple’s life and the sacrifice he made for his country.

See Robert Monroe “Bobby” Temple (1922-1941), O’Fallon Weekly, June 13, 2017.

June 19, 2017 in Death Event Planning, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Final Farewell

ShieldsJohn Shields, 78, recently decided to end his life via medically assisted suicide. Shields, a former Catholic priest, did not allow the stance of the church to influence his final decision. Shields was diagnosed with amyloidosis after he blacked out while driving. Amyloidosis is a disease causing an abnormal buildup of proteins in the tissues and organs which may eventually lead to paralysis and organ failure. Doctors believe this buildup caused Shields's heart to stop and was the impetus for his blackout. Fearing paralysis and the loss of dignity as an almost certain part of the disease's progression, Shields opted for Canada's medical assistance dying program. He allowed the New York Times to video his final days as he said goodbyes to family and friends before lethal injection. 

See Cheyenne Roundtree, Former Catholic Priest, 78, Takes His Own Life with Assisted Suicide After Being Diagnosed with Incurable Paralysis Disease - and Films His Dying Moments, Daily Mail.com, May 27, 2017.


May 29, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Final Goodbye

Alg-jack-kevorkian-jpgDoctor-assisted suicide remains a polarizing and difficult issue. Despite this, countries such as Belgium, Luxembourg, and Sweden have already legalized voluntary euthanasia. Last year, Canada legalized medically-assisted death. A recent story from the US, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old from California suffering from a brain tumor, travelled all the way to Oregon to end her life. Using social media to say her final goodbye, Maynard received an outpouring of support and sympathy from the online community.

A recent study released by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the reason for terminal patients wanting to end their lives has more to do with psychological issues as opposed to physical suffering. Although discussions regarding assisted suicide commonly revolve around the unmitigated suffering endured by patients with diseases like cancer, this does not seem to be the primary impetus behind some individual’s desire to die.

While the psychological issues are complex, many terminal individuals wanting to end their lives early share similar characteristics. These people tended to be decisive and independent—in control of their lives. This attitude in life tended to correlate with a desire to control the manner in which they died.

Maynard’s final Facebook post expresses this idea as she wrote: “Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more.”

See Ariana Eunjung Cha, It’s Not Pain but ‘Existential Distress’ that Leads People to Assisted Suicide, Study Suggests, The Washington Post, May 24, 2017.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

May 26, 2017 in Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Walking May Help with Dementia

Brain A new study indicates that exercise may bolster the brain function and thinking skills of people afflicted with a certain type of dementia. Vascular cognitive impairment, the second most frequent form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, is caused by decreased blood flow to the brain. The condition typically stems from damaged blood vessels and is associated with high blood pressure and heart disease.

In the early stages of the disease, the brain begins to function less efficiently. Areas of the brain associated with memory, attention, and decision-making show increased levels of neural activity. The damaged brain is being forced to work harder when dealing with routine processes relative to a normal, healthy brain. Researchers at the University of British Columbia decided to see if moderate exercise might potentially alleviate these symptoms. The researchers divided previously sedentary volunteers afflicted with the disease into two groups: a group that would begin working out for one hour at the lab three times a week, and another that would remain inactive.

At the end of six months, members of the exercise group showed less activation in the portions of their brains required for attention and rapid decision-making than did the control group. While the differences were subtle, the results of the study were encouraging.

See Gretchen Reynolds, A 1-Hour Walk, 3 Times a Week, Has Benefits for Dementia, N.Y. Times, May 24, 2017.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

May 26, 2017 in Current Events, Elder Law, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Virtual Reality Helping Dementia Sufferers

4063D61E00000578-4510896-image-a-28_1494941292204The progression of dementia can be a slow and agonizing process for both those afflicted and for the people who love and care for them. Difficulty recalling precious memories is among the prominent and more terrible symptoms associated with this disorder. There is some new hope for individuals struggling with dementia, and it comes from an unexpected source. The Oculus Rift headset, a virtual reality system capable of immersing the user in a virtual world, has been integrated into a therapeutic package. The package includes a number of relaxing scenes ranging from beaches, to forests full of animals, to a view of Earth from space. The user maintains varying levels of control in each of the simulated scenes. The goal is to refresh the memories of dementia sufferers. Many who have used the headset recalled memories correlated to the scenes they were shown. The kit also includes a number of activity cards healthcare professionals may use in conjunction with the device that have specific questions used to pinpoint particular memories. While the system has shown some promise, it does not come cheap at a cost of just over $5,000.

See Shivali, Touching Moment a Virtual Reality Headset Helps Elderly People with Dementia Recall Precious Memories, Daily Mail, May 16, 2017.

May 19, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How Gene Testing Is Threatening Long-Term Care Insurance

Gene testingApproximately 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, making up half of all nursing home residents, but very few people have been tested for the ApoE4 gene. Last month, however, the gene testing company 23andMe started offering tests that reveal whether people carry the gene, while assessing their risks for developing certain conditions. Following the wave, other genetics companies are planning to offer similar tests, allowing many Americans to get a better grasp on their medical futures. Although a benefit to the American people, insurance companies selling long-term care insurance might experience a disaster, sending risky patients in search of policies and damaging an already fragile business. The potential impact of gene testing has the ability to increase adverse selection, which in turn could impact the availability and affordability of certain products.

See Gina Kolata, New Gene Tests Pose a Threat to Insurers, N.Y. Times, May 12, 2017.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 16, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Surgeon Claims Frozen Brains Will Be Placed in Donor Bodies by 2020

Frozen brainAn Italian surgeon, Professor Sergio Canavero, is going on record, claiming that people will be brought back from the dead within the next three years by placing their brains in donor bodies. Canavero plans to carry out the first human head transplant next year and then move onto transplanting frozen brains into donor bodies, using those cryopreserved bodies located at the Arizona-based Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Indeed, brain transplants have advantages, including little to no immune reaction.

See Shivali Best, Frozen Brains Will Be ‘Woken Up’ and Placed in Donor Bodies by 2020, Claims Controversial Surgeon, Daily Mail, April 27, 2017.

May 10, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Funding Medical Research to Benefit a Relative

Funding medical researchFamily offices can serve as investment vehicles, financial managers, and charitable advisers. When family offices get involved in medical research, they can have a huge impact. It is not only the money that makes the impact but also the leverage to get other people to commit money to the same cause. For medical ethicists, on the other hand, wealthy people who fund research to benefit their relatives is a complicated proposition, bringing concerns that these wealthy family offices may not follow protocol in their haste to help a family member. In addition, wealthy people’s funding can create public policy implications, as they often prefer to support certain diseases over those that plague the public. However, the true focus is on the greater mission of bringing some new revelation to our world.

See Paul Sullivan, Bringing Family Wealth to Bear Against a Relentless Illness, N.Y. Times, April 28, 2017.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 7, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Better Death

Better deathDeath was horrific and sudden many centuries ago, but today, dying has turned into a medical experience, specifically how, when, and where death happens has changed greatly over time. Approximately two-thirds of deaths happen in a hospital or nursing home, and nearly a third of Americans who die after sixty-five years of age will have spent some time in an intensive-care unit in their final three months. More importantly, these deaths do not seem to be what people want, as most Americans prefer to die at home. Further, these Americans want to die free of pain, at peace, and surrounded by loved ones. Too often, doctors are administering drastic treatment in spite of the patient’s dying wishes. Changes in physician-assisted suicide, palliative care, and the way doctors talk about death can help create a broad shift in the way health care systems deal with illness and death. After all, a better death means a better life.

See How to Have a Better Death, Economist, April 29, 2017.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

May 3, 2017 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Unique Trait of Super-Agers

Super agerSuper-agers, or elders who retain a significantly sharper memory than their peers, have been found to carry a unique trait. Naturally, our brains start to decline in memory performance in our late 20s and 30s. However, in a recent study, the average ager is atrophying at more than twice the rate of their super-ager peers. Super-agers seem to be resistant to atrophy progression, which remains quite common in the average aging process. Further, the study looks into the composition of the cortex and the neurons that are most vulnerable in aging, allowing them to attack aging from not only a psychosocial and lifestyle perspective but also a biological perspective.

See Megan Thielking, Super-Agers: The Unique Traits of Older Adults with Memories Sharp as a Tack, Fox News, April 5, 2017.

April 7, 2017 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)