Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Family Wants More Time for Dad Declared Brain Dead Before Organs are Donated

OrgandonationAnthony Vallejo, 30, of California suffered a major asthma attack on July 8 that caused his lungs to collapse. By the time the man was rushed to the hospital by paramedics and intubated, his brain had been deprived of oxygen for at least 10 minutes. 

Two doctors have declared the father of two young boys brain dead, and though she says that she respects her husband's decision to be an organ donor, Talia Vellejo posted on her Facebook fundraiser that the family wishes to have more time with him for his brain to possibly heal. His heart is still beating, but according to the according to the National Kidney Foundation, as long as the heart is receiving oxygen, such as from a ventilator, it will continue to beat. Regardless of heartbeat, once a registered organ donor is declared brain dead by two doctors there is a vital window in which to remove organs.

The family has been given a deadline of 7 p.m. on Wednesday, at which time Anthony will be prepped for organ donation.

See Alexandria Hein, Family Wants More Time for Dad Declared Brain Dead Before Organs are Donated, Fox News, July 16, 2019.

July 16, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Indian Man, 20, Wakes Up at his own Funeral After Being Pronounced Dead by Doctors

HeartbeatMohammad Furqan, 20, was pronounced dead by Indian medical professionals last week, coincidentally after the man’s family told the hospital that was treating him that they no longer had the funds to pay for his care. The man had been unconscious since June 21 after being involved in an accident. But later at his funeral, mourners were shocked to see him move during his funeral prior to his burial.

His older brother Mohammad Irfan said that they "immediately took Furqan to the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital where the doctors said he was alive and have put him on ventilator support."

The city’s chief medical officer says that an investigation is underway into the country’s medical practices, as the man is "definitely not brain dead. He has pulse, blood pressure and his reflexes are working."

See Lukas Mikelionis, Indian Man, 20, Wakes Up at his own Funeral After Being Pronounced Dead by Doctors, Fox, July 3, 2019.

July 9, 2019 in Estate Planning - Generally, Science, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 8, 2019

Alzheimer’s Research is Getting a Reboot at Small Companies Focused on the Immune System

AlzA Colorado health care start-up called Partner Therapeutics is researching an almost 30-year-old leukemia medication and how it can regulate the immune system as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. This change in research trajectory is seen as a result of billions of dollars used in vain by major pharmaceutical companies seeking treatments for the removal of amyloid plaques, an accumulation of debris on brain tissue that is a key sign of Alzheimer’s.

So as bigger companies are backing away from the area, small businesses and start-ups are filling the gap. As of last year, there are only around 70 potential Alzheimer’s therapies in various stages of clinical trials, in addition to 22 remaining amyloid-targeting drugs, according to industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. In comparison, there are roughly 1,100 drugs for cancer, 445 for other neurological diseases, and 200 for heart disease and stroke in development.

Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Disease Center are leading a trial of Leukine in 40 Alzheimer’s patients. In mice with Alzheimer’s disease, the same protein contained in Leukine cleared amyloid debris from the brain while also reversing memory loss. But other drugs by bigger companies that showed promise in mice also failed, so there odds may still be long.

See Christopher Rowland, Alzheimer’s Research is Getting a Reboot at Small Companies Focused on the Immune System, Washington Post, July 3, 2019.

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

July 8, 2019 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Can an Eye Exam Reveal Alzheimer’s Risk?

EyeA visit to the eye doctor could reveal clues to not only your vision health, but may also someday assist in analyzing the health of your brain. A recent study performed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows links between many forms of eye conditions, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, to an increased risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. One eye condition that does not appear to be linked to Alzheimer's is cataracts, though it is also age-related.

“My view, and one of the possible explanations that the authors present, is that these three eye diseases and Alzheimer’s and dementia have a joined etiology (a common causative factor). All are linked to cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Albert Hofman, chair of epidemiology. The study began in 1994 and involved 5,400 dementia-free adults, following them until they left the study, died, or developed a form of dementia. The study found that people with age-related macular degeneration were 20% more likely to develop dementia compared with people who did not have the eye condition. People with diabetic retinopathy were 44% more likely to develop dementia than those without, and those with a recent glaucoma diagnosis (not an established diagnosis) had a 44% higher rate of dementia.

Though eye exams today may not be able to tell a patient if they have Alzheimer's or dementia, the knowledge that this study brings could enable doctors to focus on preventive measures. “Doing all the things that you would do to prevent heart attack and stroke are likely beneficial to prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Hofman. This means treating high blood pressure and cholesterol, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a regular exercise program.

See Kelly Bilodeau, Can an Eye Exam Reveal Alzheimer’s Risk?, Harvard.edu, June 7, 2019.

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

June 26, 2019 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Washington Becomes the First State to Legalize Composting of Humans

DirtWashington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill this Tuesday that legalizes human composting, but the law will not go into effect until May of next year. Human composting speeds up the process in which dead bodies turn into soil. Human composting will be the third option for citizens, combined with traditional burials and cremations.

The bill's sponsor, Senator Jamie Pedersen, said it is an environmentally friendly way of disposing of human remains and that it gives citizens more "freedom to determine for themselves how they'd like their body to be disposed of." The option also will be cheaper, estimating that composting will cost $5,500 compared to burials at $8,000 to $25,000 and cremations ranging up to $6,000.

According to Katrina Spade, the CEO of the human composting company Recompose, a "body is covered in natural materials, like straw or woods chips, and over the process of about three to seven weeks, thanks to microbial activity, it breaks down into soil." The family of the deceased will then received the soil that remains, and will be up to them how they use the soil.

Recently, Luke Perry's family had his body undergo a similar process by burying him in a "mushroom suit."

See Faith Karimi & Amir Vera, Washington Becomes the First State to Legalize Composting of Humans, CNN, May 22, 2019.

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

May 23, 2019 in Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Science, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Judge says Parents can use Frozen Sperm of Their Deceased West Point Cadet Son

Sbank21-year-old Peter Zhu died in February after suffering injuries from a skiing accident while attending West Point Academy. His parents received court permission to have his sperm retrieved and frozen at the same time he underwent organ donation surgery. It was stored at sperm bank. Last week, a judge finally ruled that Zhu's parents are allowed to use the sperm for reproduction.

Justice Colangelo said he found no restrictions in state or federal law. Few courts have ruled on the issue of posthumous reproduction, and usually it has been based upon the decedent's intent. “At this time, the court will place no restrictions on the use to which Peter’s parents may ultimately put their son’s sperm, including its potential use for procreative purposes,” Colangelo wrote. Last year, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued ethical guidelines for fertility centers on posthumous collection of reproductive tissue. The organization said it is justifiable if authorized in writing by the deceased and should only consider requests from the surviving spouse or partner.

Typically, court cases involving posthumous reproduction are filed by surviving spouses, not parents. there have been a few other cases that did not involve the decedent's spouse, however. In 2007, a court in Iowa authorized recovery of a man’s sperm by his parents to donate to his fiancé for future procreative use. In 2009, a Texas woman got a judge’s permission to have her 21-year-old son’s sperm extracted after his death, with the intention of hiring a surrogate mother to bear her a grandchild.

See Associated Press, Judge says Parents can use Frozen Sperm of Their Deceased West Point Cadet Son, Fox News, May 20, 2019.

May 21, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Texas Woman Taken Off Life Support Against Family's Wishes – Then a Pro-Life Group Stepped in

TexasDonald Jones and his daughter, Kina, were preparing their final goodbyes this week as their wife and mom, Carolyn Jones, 61, who suffered a stroke in 2017 and has been transferred between different rehabilitation facilities, was about to be taken off life support. She was denied life-saving care by the ethics committee at Memorial Hermann Southwest in Houston after the hospital invoked a law allowing it to deny further care called the Texas 10-day Rule, which is part of  the Texas Advance Directives Act.

Texas Right to Life and other pro-life groups in the state rallied together after the plug was pulled and the hospital refused to give Jones dialysis. The groups transported her Wednesday using a private ambulance to a new hospital, and the woman began receiving dialysis on Thursday. Her daughter said that her mom is in stable condition and looks like herself once again.

"It's kind of crazy that you try to get someone out of a hospital so their life could be saved," Mark Dickson, director and vice president of Right to Life East Texas, who was with Jones and helped to orchestrate her "escape," told Fox News." He believes that the decision by the ethics committee had more to do with the family's financial situation. The Jones' and the pro-life groups want to change the law so that no other family has to endure what they did at the hand of the Texas 10-Day Law.

See Caleb Parke, Texas Woman Taken Off Life Support Against Family's Wishes – Then a Pro-Life Group Stepped in, Fox News, May 17, 2019.

May 18, 2019 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Legislation, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Washington State Could Become First State to Allow Human Composting

TreeWashington state Senate and House of Representative passed bill 5001 on Friday which would allow residents to take part in natural organic reduction” of human remains. The bill reportedly passed easily and with bipartisan support, having taken years in the making to get the bill this far.

Research showed that careful composted human remains could be safe for use in a household garden, and that a trial that involved six backers that agreed to organic reduction. The results were positive and “the soil smelled like soil and nothing else." Democratic state Sen. Jamie Pedersen stated that, “People from all over the state who wrote to me are very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree or having a different alternative for themselves.” The process will reportedly cost $5,500.

See Edmund DeMarche, Washington State Could Become First State to Allow Human Composting, Fox News, April 21, 2019.

April 22, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Death Event Planning, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Sperm Donor Tells Australian High Court He is the Legal Father to Lesbian Couple's Daughter

FamilylawRobert Masson, as he is known to Australia's High Court, claims that he is the legal father to a lesbian couple's young daughter. He states that one of the women, a friend of his for 25 years, approached him to donate sperm on the contingency that he would play an important role in the future child's life. He is listed as the biological father on the girl's birth certificate, and he insists that she refers to him as "daddy."

He did not assert his legal claim to the girl until the couple wanted to take her out of the country. Now there is a constitutional issue as the parties argue that state law and Commonwealth law have different perspectives, one stating that a sperm donor is a legal father while according to the other the sperm donor is not.

A judge presiding over the case asked Tuesday: “Is there not a difference between the university student who is a donor to a sperm bank for a few bob and the sperm donor who plays a role in the life of the child?” The result of this case is primed to be a landmark decision in the argument over what the legal requirements are to be a parent.

See Kaylie Piecuch, Sperm Donor Tells Australian High Court He is Legally Father to Lesbian Couple's Daughter, Fox News, April 16, 2019.

April 16, 2019 in Current Affairs, Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases, Science, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Baby Born Using Controversial 3-Parent IVF Technique in Medical First, Doctors Report

IVFMedical history has been made with the successful delivery of a healthy baby boy in Greece through a controversial IVF techniques that involves three parents instead of the traditional two. He was conceived through Maternal Spindle Transfer (MST), a process in which harmful mitochondria found in the mother’s egg is removed and replaced by the female donor’s.

“The donor will only provide mitochondrial DNA, which only codes 37 genes and represents less than 1 percent of human DNA,” Dr. Nuno Costa-Bo said in an earlier statement. The female that carries the child will provide the majority of the DNA material to the baby. The mother resorted to the new method after failing to complete four cycles of IVF and an additional two other procedures.

Not everyone in the medical field is a fan of the new procedure. “There is limited evidence on risks and success rates, and it should only be used cautiously in cases where alternative treatments would be of little or no benefit,” a spokesperson for the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority said in a statement about the birth. The MST procedure is currently banned in the United States, though about one in three adults know a person that has engaged in IVF procedures.

See Kaylie Piecuch, Baby Born Using Controversial 3-Parent IVF Technique in Medical First, Doctors Report, Fox News, April 12, 2019.

April 13, 2019 in Current Affairs, Estate Planning - Generally, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)