Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mice Are Living Much Longer Lives, And Humans Could Be Next

Research mouseScientists have been able to increase the lifespan of mice by as much as 35 percent, and many researchers believe that this type of advanced medical technology could potentially help humans live much longer and healthier lives. “They discovered that senescent cells – cells that no longer replicate as organisms get older – build up with age, and contribute to age-related illnesses including cancer.” When these cells were removed from the mice they lived much longer lives. This column describes some of the scientific principles behind what the researchers are studying. Longer lifespans that will be made possible because of continued advances in medical research and technology will have a major impact on estate and retirement planning in the future. If the average human is living a much longer lifespan society may need to rethink its whole attitude about aging.

See Matt Atherton, Mice have been made to live 35% longer – and it could be humans next, say researchers, International Business Times, February 4, 2016.

February 5, 2016 in Current Affairs, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Captain Kirk Can Take Some Leave, Enterprise In Space-Dock For Repairs

ArticlePictureThe USS Enterprise is a name that evokes strong memories in the minds of many as it's TV adventures inspired generations of people to explore the universe through science and engineering. But the prop that was used for filming the original episodes of Star Trek is now in the caring hands of the restorations department of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum which has restored such historic planes as the Enola Gay and the Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis. The model is need of repairs after decades without proper maintenance combined with the fact that it was originally built to be a temporary model and was never expected to survive for more than a few years.  And there is good news, the team working on the model reports it is in great condition and will be ready to for the 50th anniversary of the airing of the first episode. Once the fix is complete, the model will reside alongside the Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 capsule; truly distinguished company for the most important fictional vessel of all time.

See Michael E. Ruane, The starship Enterprise is in the shop for repairs, The Chicago Tribune, January 31, 2016.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

February 4, 2016 in Science, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Article On The Affect Of Biomarkers For Alzheimer's On End-Of-Life Choices

ArticlePictureRebecca Dresser (Professor of Law, Washington University) recently published an article entitled, A fate worse than death? How biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease could affect end-of-life choices, 12 Ind. Health L. Rev. 651-669 (2015).

For many years, scientists have searched for biological markers of the brain deterioration associated with the cognitive impairments characterizing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Although the search for useful biomarkers is ongoing, there is increasing evidence that certain brain changes indicate that a person is at relatively high risk of developing full-blown AD. Much of the research on AD biomarkers is motivated by the belief that successful treatment will require very early intervention in the disease process. Unfortunately, by the time people develop the memory and other behavioral problems that are associated with AD, significant brain damage has already occurred. Biomarker tests could give patients and clinicians the opportunity to start drug and other treatments early, with the goal of slowing or stopping the deterioration that can eventually produce the clinical symptoms of AD. We can all hope that the medical promise of AD
biomarkers becomes a reality. But it will take years to determine whether biomarker testing and early intervention produce clear health benefits. Currently available AD treatments are largely ineffective, and early therapeutic intervention remains unproven. Before effective treatment becomes available, many people tested for biomarkers could learn that they are at higher-than average risk of developing AD. Some people will appreciate this early warning, for it will give them an opportunity to get their affairs in order, take a long-desired vacation, and “have the kind of heartfelt talks with their children that that people often put off.”

January 31, 2016 in Articles, Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Study Shows Bankrupt Cancer Patients Are More Likely To Pass Away

CancerThe skyrocketing costs of cancer treatments has created a toxic situation for bankrupt cancer patients. A study put out by the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center has shown that the financial problems that cancer patients will face can be almost as deadly as the disease itself, and that bankrupt cancer patients are even more likely to die from the disease. There are many people who do not plan on getting cancer and are not prepared for the financial devastation that the disease causes. Even people that have health insurance are still hit with major cancer treatment costs. This article discusses the efforts by groups like the Hutchison Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research (HICOR) to reform the system of cancer treatment. There are also tips that patients can use to reduce costs that are provided in the article.

See Diane Mapes, Cancer, bankruptcy and death: study finds a link, Fred Hutch News Service, January 25, 2016.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse for bringing this article to my attention.

January 27, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Podcast On Surrogacy Across Continents In The Modern Age

GeneticsSurrogacy has been a popular alternative for couples seeking a child when they are unable to conceive due to infertility or for male same-sex couples seeking a child. Usually the surrogacy consist of one women carrying the child but one same-sex couple in Israel took an unusual path and had three different surrogates at once that were also living halfway across the world. This podcast tells the story of the quest for a child and the hurdles that this couple, and many others, encounter as they build their family.

Special thanks to Jerry Borison for bringing this podcast to my attention.

January 26, 2016 in Current Events, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Studies Show That Centenarians Are Living Even Longer

CentenariansA new report shows that American centenarians (people who have lived to be 100 or older) are living longer lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the death rate among centenarians has dropped 14 percent for women and 20 percent for men from 2008 to 2014. The study also shows that the leading causes of death in this age group are also changing thanks to advances in health and medicine. Death rates for things like influenza and pneumonia are on the decline while more members of this age group are passing away from Alzheimer’s. According to Holly Prigerson, professor of geriatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, the reason why more centenarians are dying from Alzheimer’s is because people that are fit enough to live to be over 100 tend to ultimately “succumb to diseases afflicting the mind and cognitive dysfunction.”

See Rachael Rettner, Even Centenarians Are Living Longer, The Scientific American, January 21, 2016.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

January 21, 2016 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Science, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0)

Missouri Dispute Seeks To Classify Embryos As Children

GeneticsJalesi McQueen and Justin Gadberry had a healthy set of twins eight years ago using in vitro fertilization and all assumed it was the start of a happy family after the difficult quest to conceive. Flash forward eight years and any harmony from those days is gone as a nasty divorce battle pits the former lovers against each other over control not of their living children, but of the remaining embryos from the fertilization process which Ms. McQueen seeks to use. Now, an anti-abortion group has signed on to the case and is supporting Ms. McQueen by arguing that the embryos should be treated as children and have their fate determined under the best interest standard usually applied in child custody disputes rather than viewing the embryos as marital property. A trial court ruled the embryos property and upheld the right of Mr. Gadberry to not be forced into procreation but the case is now pending before an appellate court. No matter how the case is decided, it is likely to elicit a strong response from both sides in this increasingly bitter debate over the status of embryos.

See Tamar Lewin, Anti-Abortion Groups Join Battles Over Frozen Embryos, The New York Times, January 19, 2016.

Special thanks to Jerry Borison for bringing this article to my attention.

January 21, 2016 in Current Affairs, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What Does A Doctor Do When Deciding On End Of Life Care?

MedicalA new study has been released and appears to indicate that doctors tend to receive different levels of end of life care than the general population. In particular, it indicated that doctors receive less aggressive levels of care when it comes to prolonging life particularly in the last six months of life.The authors suspect that is the doctor's knowledge of the realities of warding away death for short periods and instead opt to plan ahead and make sure they are not made to suffer to prolonging the inevitable. Interestingly, lawyers were also shown to chose similar paths to doctors when making end of life decisions which the researchers conjectured was due to their high level of education and tendency to clearly set out their goals and intent when making arrangements concerning end of life medical care. All this goes to show that education about the realities of end of life medical treatment is essential in allowing a person to make an informed decision about what lengths should be gone to in order to prolong their life.

See Andrew M. Seaman, Doctors get less aggressive care before death, Reuters, January 19, 2016.

January 20, 2016 in Death Event Planning, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Unique Odor May Be Used To Detect Alzheimer's Disease

DementiaThe early diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease is a difficult task due to the unique properties of the disorder which has made the search for a cheap and noninvasive test so critical. Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other research institutes have discovered that the disease produces a unique odor that can be detected in the urine of the sufferer. The early discovery of the affliction is critical since it allows a doctor to begin preventative care which can help lessen the severity of cognitive decline although it will not prevent the inevitable total deterioration. No viable urine test has been developed for wide spread use by medical professionals but there is hope that this discovery might one day be used to provide a easy to use and accurate screening method. An effective test for Alzheimer's would be a great boon since it will give the millions of anticipated sufferers a chance to function at a high level for years longer than with current detection methods so let us wish the researchers the best of luck.

See, Odor biomarker for Alzheimer's disease, Medical Express, January 14, 2016.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret for bringing this article to my attention.

January 17, 2016 in Current Affairs, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Growing Use Of Rechargeable Batteries Boosting Demand For Lithium

LithiumThe renewable energy revolution has caused an ever growing demand for rechargeable batteries which is causing lithium to become a more important resource. Lithium is a vital component of batteries that are used to power many important things like our phones, laptops, and electric vehicles. Goldman Sachs has called lithium “the new gasoline” because of its importance in a more battery oriented clean energy future. Governments and businesses all over the globe are scrambling to secure lithium resources. Lithium has become one of the world’s hottest commodities and the price of lithium carbonate has more than doubled in the two months leading up to the end of December. Countries that have an abundance of lithium resources are going to benefit in this surge in demand for a resource that is crucial for the green energy revolution.

See San Pedro Atacama, An increasingly precious metal, The Economist, January 16, 2016.

January 15, 2016 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)