Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

I Saved an Old Man’s Life. He Didn’t Want It.

UpHerb Lee, a vibrant eighty-seven-year-old grandfather, had gone out to dinner. There was something off with the food, as Lee spent the entire night vomiting. He went to the emergency room the next morning where doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia and kidney failure; Lee had aspirated some of the food particles. He had low blood pressure and was suffering from severe sciatica pain that had been exacerbated by an extended repose on a hospital gurney. Owing to low blood pressure, doctors could not administer pain medication to relieve his tremendous suffering.

Prior to this hospital visit, Lee had been extremely clear with his family about how he wanted to be treated in such a situation. He did not want to be resuscitated or placed on a feeding or breathing tube. Perhaps fortunately for Herb, his grandson-in-law, Jeremy Topin, was one of his attending physicians. In total disregard for Herb wishes, Topin ordered Lee placed on a breathing tube; Lee’s life was saved. Topin had looked as objectively at the situation as was possible and understood that Lee’s condition was treatable and curable. Lee went home a little over six weeks after the incident.

Months later, at a family dinner, Topin asked Lee if he had made the right decision. Lee looked at him and said, “I wouldn’t want to go through that again.” The response shook Topin. He had thought of his act as an unequivocal win: Lee had been saved and was able to spend more time with family and loved ones. Still a physician, Topin now shares this story with families struggling to decide how to handle these emergencies.

See Jeremy Topin, I Saved an Old Man’s Life. He Didn’t Want It., The Washington Post, July 29, 2017.

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

August 4, 2017 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Scientists Reawaken Memory in Mice That Had a Condition Resembling Alzheimer’s

MaxresdefaultExperiments by Christine Denny at Columbia University have resulted in researchers reawakening forgotten memories in mice. Scientists have long thought that individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease were losing memories; that individual neurons storing memories were actually being erased. Through the aid of genetically engineered mice, researchers have found this is not actually the case.

Denny's research team conducted an experiment in which mice were introduced to a lemon scent and then shocked. Genetically engineered mice with brain dysfunction similar to Alzheimer’s did not react the next time the smelled the lemon scent. The lack of reaction was an indication they were not recalling the correct memory. Through the use of lasers, researchers stimulated neurons associated with the lemon scent. The next time these mice were exposed to the smell, they reacted in anticipation to the electric shock. The study is ground-breaking and brings with it hope that memories in Alzheimer’s patients might be reactivated.

See Alice Klein, Scientists Reawaken Memory in Mice That Had a Condition Resembling Alzheimer’s, The Washington Post, July 29, 2017.

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

August 4, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Want to Live FOREVER? Major Breakthrough in Cryogenic Freezing

The-time-machineThe chance to see what the world will be like in 200 or 300 hundred years, once a fancy belonging to the realm of science-fiction, has just become a more realistic possibility. Scientists in the US were able to freeze zebra embryos to sub-zero temperatures and then successfully revive them. Although only 10% of the embryos were viable after being brought back from their frozen state, this marks a huge milestone for the cryogenics industry.

Prior tests had been routinely unsuccessful as the gradual warming of the frozen embryos caused a lethal formation of ice crystals. With the addition of gold nano-rods heated by laser, the warming process became much faster. This allowed for some of the embryos to survive defrosting and continue to grow as normal. If perfected, this process has far-reaching implications, one of which is prolonged space travel. Currently, there are concerns that isolation in space over long distances might lead to mental instability. If astronauts could be cryogenically frozen and then awakened at journey’s end, the possibility of a mental breakdown, in addition to lower food, water, and oxygen consumption, would be significantly reduced.

See Sean Martin Want to Live FOREVER? Major Breakthrough in Cryogenic Freezing, Express, August 3, 2017.

August 3, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 28, 2017

CTE Diagnosed in 99% of Former NFL Players Studied by Researchers

104607861-GettyImages-489282168-mike-webster.530x298Of 111 former NFL players whose brains were donated for research purposes, 110 were diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Of the total 202 brains studied, 87% were diagnosed with the disease. The donated brains came from former high school, college, NFL, Canadian Football League, and semipro football players. The authors of the study wrote in a report: “The findings suggest that CTE may be related to prior participation in football, and that a high level of play may be related to substantial disease burden."

The study also found that the most common cause of death among those diagnosed with mild form of CTE was suicide. Among those found to have more severe forms of CTE, a neurodegenerative-related cause of death was most common. Researchers currently believe that certain behavioral and mood symptoms may be indicators of an early onset of the disease. As of now, the only means to determine if CTE is present in the brain is through a post-mortem examination.

See A. J. Perez, CTE Diagnosed in 99% of Former NFL Players Studied by Researchers, CNBC, July 25, 2017.

Special thanks to Davis S. Luber, Florida Probate Attorney, for bringing this article to my attention.

July 28, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Diminished Verbal Fluency and Hospitalizations Can Signal Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease

Brain_slicesResearchers studying cognitive decline have identified three factors that may be pre-Alzheimer's indicators. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin found a link between hearing loss and mild cognitive impairment, which may be an early sign of the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Over a four-year period, 9.2% of study group participants self-reported being diagnosed with hearing loss. These individuals were found to be more likely to earn lower scores on cognitive tests and were three times more likely to have mild cognitive impairment compared to their counterparts without hearing loss.

Another study at the university found a correlation between small changes in normal, everyday speech and mild cognitive impairment. Over the course of ten years, nearly a quarter of participants were identified as having mild cognitive impairment. This subset of the total population was also found to have had more significant declines in verbal fluency than others in the study. This group tended to use less complicated syntax and shorter sentences in their speech. The affected group also tended to take longer to express the same amount of content as the cognitively healthy group.

Bryan James, an epidemiologist with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center, found that emergency and urgent hospitalizations are associated with about a 60% acceleration in cognitive decline compared to pre-hospitalization performance. James stated: “While recognizing that all medical procedures carry some degree of risk, this study implies that planned hospital encounters may not be as dangerous to the cognitive health of older persons as emergency or urgent situations.”

See Mary Hui, Hearing Loss, Diminished Verbal Fluency and Hospitalizations Can Signal Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease, Studies Find, The Washington Post, July 17, 2017.

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

July 20, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dead Could Be Brought 'Back To Life' in Groundbreaking Project

Universal-Frankenstein-07-11-16Health watchdogs approved a groundbreaking trial aimed at regenerating brain tissue in individuals who have been declared clinically dead. Scientists plan to inject comatose patients with stem cells and a combination of peptides, along with implementing some nerve stimulation techniques, in order to repair brain damage. These techniques have had some past success in reviving patients from comas.

The trial participants have been certified as being brain-dead and are kept alive through life-support. The team undertaking the experiment has officially received approval for their first twenty subjects. They are currently working with the hospital to identify any potential conflicts with patients' families who may oppose the endeavor due to religious or other medical concerns. Dr. Sergei Paylian sees the possible benefits of the study: “Through our study, we will gain unique insights into the state of human brain death, which will have important connections to future therapeutic development for other severe disorders of consciousness, such as coma, and the vegetative and minimally conscious states, as well as a range of degenerative CNS conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.”

See Sarah Knapton, Dead Could Be Brought 'Back To Life' in Groundbreaking Project, The Telegraph, May 3, 2016.

Special thanks to Molly Neace for bringing this article to my attention.

July 19, 2017 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Article on The Momentum of Posthumous Conception: A Model Act

GametezygotefertilizationRaymond C O'Brien recently published an Article entitled, The Momentum of Posthumous Conception: A Model Act, Wills, Trusts, & Estate Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This Article addresses the scenario of when, through advanced medical technology, a procedure is performed resulting in the birth of a child more than three hundred days-a time suggested by some statutes-after the death of the gamete provider. The embryo may result from in vitro fertilization or from a woman being artificially inseminated with the sperm of a deceased male gamete provider. And of course the woman could have predeceased too and left a viable ova, that was then fertilized with the sperm of a living or a deceased male to create an embryo, which was then placed into a surrogate, a gestational carrier. The essential element is that the act, which results in a future birth, occurs after the death of one or both of the gamete providers. This is the essence of posthumous conception. That is, once the egg and sperm are brought together through assisted reproductive technology to form an embryo, both or either of the persons who donated the sperm and egg or embryo are dead, perhaps for a long time. If this is the point of conception, then the issue arises as to whether the resulting posthumously conceived infant should qualify under the law for paternity, inheritance and benefits. How long should the law wait for conception before terminating status? The law strives for certainty and medical technology has made certainty an elusive prey.

Special thanks to Robert H. Sitkoff (John L. Gray Professor of Law, Harvard Law School) for bringing this article to my attention.

July 17, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

State: 111 Terminally Ill End Lives Under New California Law

Life-ending durgsTuesday, California health officials released a report revealing that 111 individuals opted to end their lives with prescribed drugs after a 2016 law made it legal to do so in the state. According to the report, physicians prescribed life-ending drugs to 191 people after they were diagnosed with having fewer than six months to live. Of the 191, 111 ended their lives with the drugs, 21 died prior to taking the drugs, and 59 patients were not reported on in the applicable timeframe. The typical demographic of those requesting the drugs tended to be older, white, college educated, and receiving hospice or palliative care. A hearing will be held later this year to determine how the law is playing out in California. Testimonies of families with individuals who have pursued this option will be included in the hearing.

See State: 111 Terminally Ill End Lives Under New California Law, The New York Times, June 27, 2017.

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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Judge in Spain Orders Salvador Dalí’s Body Exhumed for Paternity Test

DaliPilar Abel, a tarot card reader, has succeeded in a Spanish court in winning a judicial order to have surrealist painter Salvador Dalí’s body exhumed for DNA testing. Abel claims that her mother had a short-lived affair with the artist in the mid-1950s. Despite her prescience in other’s lives, Abel will not mystically divine her lineage on principle; she does not look at her own cards. Dalí's work was donated to the Spanish state upon his death. It is estimated to have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Abel has said that if paternity is establish, she would be willing to take “whatever corresponds to me.”

See Max Bearak, Judge in Spain Orders Salvador Dalí’s Body Exhumed for Paternity Test, The Washington Post, June 26, 2017.

Special thanks to Molly Neace for bringing this article to my attention.

June 27, 2017 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)