Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Article on A History of the Law of Assisted Dying in the United States

DeathwdignityAlan Meisel has written an Article that will soon be published, A History of the Law of Assisted Dying in the United States, Elder Law eJournal (2019). Provided below is the abstract to the Article.

The slow growth in the number of states that have enacted legislation to permit what is often referred to as “death with dignity” legislation—and more frequently referred to popularly as “physician assisted suicide” laws—has begun to accelerate in the past few years since the enactment of the first such statute in Oregon in 1994.

Like much other social reform legislation, there is a long history behind it. In this case, the history in the United States dates back at least to the latter part of the nineteenth century. Not until the 1980s, however, did these efforts gain any traction in courts and legislatures. What is probably more responsible than anything else for reviving interest in and providing momentum for legalization is the recognition by state courts, beginning with the Karen Ann Quinlan case in New Jersey in 1975, that the right to be free from unwanted interference with one’s bodily integrity encompasses a right to refuse even life-sustaining medical treatment. The recognition of this so-called right to die was only a short conceptual step—though a long political one—from recognizing that competent adults also should have the right to actively end their lives under certain conditions.

As of the end of 2019, the efforts of a small number of advocacy groups through lobbying, litigation, and public education have resulted in the enactment of death with dignity legislation in nine states and recognition of the right by one state supreme court. Despite dire warnings from opponents of legalization, it has not resulted in either wholesale abuse of the dying or the legalization of active euthanasia (either voluntary or involuntary).

December 3, 2019 in Articles, Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kansas Considers ‘Greener’ New Way to Bury its Dead

TreeA Swedish company called Promessa is focusing on Kansas to present a new form of disposing of human remains to the United States because of the state's relatively lax cremation laws, especially since the state does not require a fire in the cremation process. The procedure, promession, consists of freezing the body with liquid nitrogen and then "vibrating it into particles." Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, the biologist who founded the company, said in an interview that promession is cost-effective and eco-friendly.

Kansas' attorney general, Derek Schmidt, released an opinion shortly before Thanksgiving that the decision to allow the procedure within the state should be made by the Kansas Board of Mortuary Arts. Last May, Washington became the first state to allow the composting of human bodies in which the body is broken down into soil that the family or loved ones are allowed to keep or spread where ever they choose.

See Edmund DeMarche, Kansas Considers ‘Greener’ New Way to Bury its Dead, Fox News, December 2, 2019.

December 3, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Analysis: New Jersey's New Aid-in-Dying Law - Implications for Physicians, Estate Planners, & Malpractice Attorneys

LawNew Jersey's Medical Aid-in-Dying for the Terminally Ill (MAID) Act passed earlier this year, and now has been held up by the state's highest court. Besides the patients themselves, many others across industries are affected by this new law, most importantly physicians, estate planners, and malpractice attorneys due to the possible ethical and legal implications.

Physicians may be tested on their belief that the new law violates their Hippocratic oath, and some may even face an ethical or religious dilemma if their beliefs run counter to the concept of suicide. How can a physician be sure that the patient's informed consent is not tainted my momentary depression or mental illness? Should a psychiatric assessment be performed every single time? And when it comes to practical issues, can there be legal pitfalls for the doctor?

For an estate planner, the issues are also just as nuances. Certain documents may need to be redrafted if they were done so before physician assisted suicide was an option. And a morbid truth may be that future heirs and even future decedents may try to use assisted suicide to time death for financial gains or planning certainty. Practitioners may be able to advise clients as to the preferred state to claim residency in for tax purposes, and which state’s assisted suicide law are the most beneficial. 

See Alex Raybould, Analysis: New Jersey's New Aid-in-Dying Law - Implications for Physicians, Estate Planners, & Malpractice Attorneys, Lewis Bris Bois, November 6, 2019.

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

November 18, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, New Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Paralympic Gold Medalist Dies by Euthanasia After Battling Degenerative Spinal Pain

EuthanasiaMarieke Vervoort of Belgium won gold and silver medals in wheelchair racing at the 2012 London Paralympics and silver at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. She suffered from incurable and degenerative spinal pain, and said that the training, riding, and competition kept her alive and fighting for so long, but that signing paperwork for euthanasia gave her control over her own life.

Vervoort was a strong advocate for the right to choose euthanasia and spent her final evening with close friends and family. “If I didn't have those papers, I think I'd have done suicide already. I think there will be fewer suicides when every country has the law of euthanasia. ... I hope everybody sees that this is not murder, but it makes people live longer.”

Condolences have poured in for Paralympic athlete, including from the Belgium royal family.

See Ryan Gaydos, Paralympic Gold Medalist Dies by Euthanasia After Battling Degenerative Spinal Pain, Fox News, October 23, 2019.

October 23, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Prankster’s Pre-Recorded Funeral Message From the Grave Gives Family One Last Laugh

LaughingA father from Dublin, Ireland had his family play a pre-recorded message at his funeral to lighten the mood and make a number of the attendees laugh. Shay Bradley, a Defense Forces veteran, can be heard knocking and calling out - presumably from the coffin - before jokingly calling for the priest, saying he’s stuck in the box.

His daughter, Andrea Bradley, shared the message on social media where it has gone viral, writing that this was her dad’s dying wish. The short clip has now gone viral and the family has received many heart-felt messages.

“Myself and my Family are overwhelmed with the Amazing response and comments we have received regarding my dad's funeral, he truly is a legend and was the most amazing man!!! He would be overjoyed to know how many smiles and laughs he has given to every one. Thank you all,” Andrea wrote.

See Alexandra Deabler, Prankster’s Pre-Recorded Funeral Message From the Grave Gives Family One Last Laugh, Fox News, October 14, 2019.

October 17, 2019 in Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 5, 2019

A Life Packed With Experiences Leads Texas Author to Pen Adroit Supernatural Thriller

BrushwdeathStart with one artist experimenting with her craft, add one dead serial killer and a pinch of the supernatural and you've cooked up one tense thriller. In A Brush With Death, the first of a series, Jody Summers masterfully blends the supernatural and the romantic to achieve a highly satisfying read.

New Orleans painter Kira McGovern hits on something when she mixes her mother's ashes into her oil paints and enters an altered state. She begins channeling some key moments in her mother's life, creating a stunning work of art as a memorial and drawing in customers who want a painting done using the same method. Pleased with her success, she launches Canvas of Life and commissions start rolling in. And when it couldn't get any better, she meets Sean; a handsome mid-western rancher, who harbors a gruesome secret of which he is unaware.

But with each brushstroke on her latest commission, Kira's reality is becoming more and more bizarre. She awakens from dreams that are soaked in blood and filled with gruesome images of murders. And the feeling of a lurking malevolence grows ever stronger.

Unconventional is the word to describe the life author Jody Summers led before turning to writing. The adopted son of a prominent Texas restaurateur, Summers grew up in New Orleans, Memphis and Houston, learning the restaurant business while he built a career as a competitive gymnast that propelled him to a scholarship at the University of Kansas. After college, Summers followed in his father's footsteps, owning, at one point, three 24-hour restaurant franchises along with four tanning salons in Tulsa. He has used his entrepreneurial skills for everything from a patent in the pet industry to a single's website. A restaurateur, a gymnast, a stunt man, an entrepreneur, a pilot, skydiver, scuba diver and an accomplished martial artist for 25 years, Summers has tried it all. Now he brings all those experiences to paper in his supernatural thriller series, Art of the Dead.

For more information, please visit jodysummersbooks.com.

October 5, 2019 in Books, Books - Fiction, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Family of Brain-Dead Patient in Arizona says He's Still Alive and Doesn't Want His Organs Procured

Donor26-year-old Ruben Vati suffered a drug overdose on September 11, 2019 and was rushed to Phoenix HonorHealth Hospital. Four days later he was declared brain dead, but his family claims that he is just in a vegetative state and with time, he can "come out" of it.

According to court documents, Vati no longer has any brain function and is being kept "alive" through machines for the purpose of procuring his organs. Vati registered twice with the Donor Network of Arizona, a procurement agency, who states that five patients are currently waiting for life-saving organs from Vati. The agency claims that time is of the essence, and the life-span of the organs are dwindling. A judge has issued a court order that a neurologist access Vati to determine that he is in fact brain dead, and the hospital is simply waiting for the neurologist to arrive.

The family says they will continue to fight, and that "we don't want them to take his organs no matter what," according to his mother, Stela Vati. "They said from the neck up he's dead, but he don't look dead to me." His older brother, Daniel, added that "He's in there, and he's alive."

See Family of Brain-Dead Patient in Arizona says He's Still Alive and Doesn't Want His Organs Procured, KGun.com, September 26, 2o19.

September 28, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

10 Most Expensive US States to Die in

BeachNew research compiled by the personal-finance website GOBankingRates, the National Funeral Directors Association and the National Bureau of Economic Research configured a list of the 10 most expensive states to die in after figuring the median out-of-pocket funeral costs and median end-of-life medical care in each of them and Washington, D.C. It is not surprising that the two of the most expensive states to live in - California and New York - also made this list.

The top 10 states that will cost more to die in are, from least to most:

  • Rhode Island
    • Average funeral expenses: $9,269
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $16,398
  • New Jersey
    • Average funeral expenses: $9,712
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,181
  • Connecticut
    • Average funeral expenses: $9,914
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,538
  • Maryland
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,069
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,812
  • Alaska
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,084
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $17,840
  • Massachusetts
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,216
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $18,073
  • Oregon
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,418
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $18,430
  • New York
    • Average funeral expenses: $10,799
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $19,103
  • California
    • Average funeral expenses: $11,777
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $20,834
  • Hawaii
    • Average funeral expenses: $14,975
    • Average end-of-life medical costs: $26,492

See here for a slideshow of the full results from the study by GoBankingRates.

See Shawn M. Carter, 10 Most Expensive US States to Die in, Fox News, August 20, 2019.

August 22, 2019 in Current Affairs, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Funerals are now Being Livestreamed

LivestreamThe a person's death can often happen so suddenly, family and friends from different places cannot manage to be at their loved one's funeral. Natalie Levy's mother died tragically from suicide earlier this year, and following Jewish tradition, they had the funeral as soon as possible. But that made it nearly impossible for many to join in on mourning for her mother.

Fortunately, the chapel featured a new amenity: livestreaming the service so others could watch, and they even uploaded a recording of the funeral onto the online obituary. Levy some extended family members her mother had reconnected with late in life were extremely grateful they could participate remotely, as were the half-dozen or so other friends and family members she recalls tuning in live. But it was not only a saving grace for those that could not attend; the recording could be watched by her and her sister to remember all the sweet stories the well-wishers told them about their mother.

Bryant Hightower, president-elect of the National Funeral Directors Association, says that livestreaming funeral services has been around for more than a decade but has just now become more mainstream. The funeral industry is often hesitant to any change, but Hightower says that now approximately 20% of funeral homes now offer the service, much to the delight of clients that are becoming more integrated in the technological lifestyles. Gary Richards, founder of OneRoom, a company that offers livestreaming services to funeral directors in several countries, says that many clients are recent immigrants from countries such as India, Philippines, and Vietnam who want to have long distance family members feel connected to the service.

See Paris Martineau, Now Even Funerals are Being Livestreamed - and Families are Grateful, Wired, July 30, 2019.

Special thanks to Jim Gust (Senior Editor, Merrill Anderson Company) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 18, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

New Jersey’s Medically Assisted Suicide Law Put on Hold

PillsDemocratic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an act that allow physician assisted suicide back in April, but a judge has put the law on hold in response to a lawsuit filed by a doctor practicing in the state. Dr. Yosef Glassman’s lawsuit argues “that immediate and irreparable damage will probably result in view of the fact that if its enforcement," and says that the law is an affront to religious doctors. Dr. Glassman is an Orthodox Jew.

The law went into effect earlier this month, but Judge Paul Innes of Superior Court in Mercer County signed the temporary order Wednesday with a hearing set for October. The law requires two doctors to sign off on the request and for the terminally ill patient to be deemed an adult resident of New Jersey who has the mental capacity to make such a decision and voluntarily expresses a wish to die. They must request the medication twice, with one at least in writing and signed by two witnesses, and have a chance to rescind the request. One of the witnesses cannot be a relative nor a beneficiary of the patient's estate.

With the governor's signature, New Jersey joined Maine, Oregon, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia that all have similar legislation.

See Mike Catalini, New Jersey’s Medically Assisted Suicide Law Put on Hold, Lubbock Online, August 15, 2019.

August 15, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)