The state of New Jersey recently passed the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill (MAID) Act. This law permits physicians to assist in the suicide of terminally ill patients following three requests by the patient to do so. To achieve physician assistance, one of the requests must be in writing. Following verification by a second physician, the treating physician can then prescribe medication for the rest of the patient’s life. While the law had controversial origins, it was later upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court. While the law only directly impacts the state of New Jersey, it has implications for everyone in the country who is interested in estate planning.
New York’s Death with Dignity
The New York Medical Aid in Dying Act is currently under consideration by both the Assembly and Senate Committees. If passed, New York’s law would require that a patient who requested aid in dying medication must be at least eighteen years old, a resident of New York, mentally capable of making and communicating health care decisions, and diagnosed with a terminal illness that will result in death within six months. A patient who meets these requirements will then only be prescribed medication if:
- The patient verbally requests assistance from the doctor
- The patient gives a written request to the doctor that is signed in the presence of two qualified adult witnesses
- The prescribing physician and one other doctor confirm the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis
- The prescribing doctor and on other physician determine that the patient is capable of making medical decisions
- The patient receives a psychological examination if the patient’s judgment is believed to be impaired
- The prescribing doctor confirms that the patient is not being coerced into making this decision
- The prescribing doctor lets the patient know about any potential alternatives to medication
- The prescribing doctor requests the patient notify their next of kind of the prescription request
- The prescribing doctor offers the patient to chance to withdraw the request before granting the prescription
The Impact on Medical Professionals
Medical professionals are one of the most parties likely to be directly impacted by this new body of law. Medical professionals will likely be tested on whether new dying with dignity laws violate the Hippocratic oath. Some medical professionals also might face religious or spiritual challenges if suicide contrasts with their personal beliefs. Besides these challenges, it also remains uncertain how informed consent will work in cases involving assisted suicide.
What These New Laws Mean for Estate Planning
The issues that this new law creates for estate planning are not any less nuanced. There is the possibility of misuse of healthcare powers of attorney by individuals who want to receive an inheritance soon rather than later. Additionally, estate planning documents must be revised to consider what approach should be taken towards new death with dignity laws. Furthermore, there is the potential that timing issues can arise in estate planning when the time of death can be controlled.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Lawyer
Our country has progressed substantially since the day of Jack Kevorkian, who advocated famously that dying is not a crime. It currently remains uncertain, however, how the role of assisted suicide in this country will change. If you need the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney, do not hesitate to contact Ettinger Estate Planning today to schedule a free case evaluation.