For many of us, we never expected that we’d face the reality that a parent or loved one had sought out ways to gracefully end their lives should they become so ill that there could be no recovery. In some states,it’s now legal to do so. Vermont’s End of Life law has been in place for awhile and we were wondering how well it was faring.
It’s a very difficult concept for many family members. There are spiritual or religious considerations and then there’s the human condition that keep the emotions on edge. Even when, in our heart of hearts, we know that Mom or Dad won’t recover, there’s a small part of us that says maybe they will. It’s just human nature. It’s natural and there’s nothing wrong with voicing that fear to your loved one’s physician.
Not an Easy Bill
It wasn’t an easy bill to get passed, which surprised no one, but the law is designed to give immunity to those in the medical field who help a terminal patient pass. It’s done with a lethal dose of medication; however, it’s not an easy process to go through. There’s also one more caveat: the law expires in 2016. The goal is to ensure physicians will define their own protocols for administering these final doses.
If you’re a terminal patient and are considering this as a way to pass, you owe it to yourself to understand the legal and financial dynamics in place. Your loved ones will naturally be focused on their grief and you can help ease the logistics by having a solid estate plan in place. This includes definitive documentation that you have made your own decisions about your death.
Vermont’s End of Life Law
The name of the law is the Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act. It’s restrictive, make no mistake, but it serves a powerful purpose. As mentioned, it is the physicians who prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients. The law protects them from prosecution, but it also protects family, friends and other loved ones as well.
Doctors Have Option to Decline Patient Requests
A few more legalities include an opt-out feature. Doctors don’t have to participate in these decisions. Many cite personal reasons or their own religious beliefs and that’s fine – this isn’t a requirement, just an option for doctors. Not only that, but the law requires patients to wait 15 days after a verbal request is made. The second request must be written, with a witness present, and doctors must then wait 48 hours before administering the medication.
There are no specifics in Vermont’s end of life law that says a patient must have his legal and/or financial affairs in place ahead of time, but it’s simply smart to have those bases covered ahead of time. For most people who consider these drastic options, they have already prepared their wills and other legal documents. They have contacted their elder law attorneys and know that there are no loose ends from that perspective.
No one wants to make those types of decisions, but many residents we’ve spoken with agree that it’s a comfort knowing they can ease that burden should the time ever come.
Have questions about these or other estate planning laws? Our team of experienced lawyers can help. We have decades of experience and our clients have come to rely on our office for fair, ethical and honest guidance.