Most Recent Issue April 2012

 

Freedom of Choice at the End of Life: Patients’ Rights in a Shifting Legal and Political Landscape

Introduction by Peter J. Strauss

In the autumn of 1979, my mother killed the cats. We had seven; one
morning, she grabbed four, took them to the vet and had them put to sleep.
She said she didn’t want to feed them anymore. It occurred to me that she
might be going mad…Read more

Right-to-Die Cases: A New York Historical Perspective by Sol Wachtler

“Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body.”  After I was named Chief Judge of New York State, a position previously occupied by one of the noblest of jurists, Benjamin Cardozo, I went with my mother to see my new chambers and the desk I was to use—the desk that had been used by Cardozo himself. I said to my mother, “Just think of it, I will be using Benjamin Cardozo’s desk.” And my wise mother replied, “Yes, but remember, fifty years from today, it will still be Benjamin Cardozo’s desk.”…Read more

Give Me Liberty at My Death: Expanding End-of-Life Choice in Massachusetts by Kathryn L. Tucker

Modern medicine can extend the dying process so long that a terminally ill
patient may feel trapped in a torturous, inexorable, lingering decline. Sometimes the
process takes too long and the suffering is unbearable. Some patients want to achieve
a swifter, gentler end by ingesting medications prescribed to bring about a peaceful
death, an option known as “aid in dying.”…Read more

A New Life for Wrongful Living by Nadia N. Sawicki

A patient has an indisputable right under federal and state laws to set forth her
wishes for end-of-life medical care in an advance directive or other legal document, or
by way of a health care proxy. Such directives are legally binding in that they can be
used to enjoin a medical provider from administering life-sustaining care against the
patient’s wishes. However, if a medical provider wrongfully provides treatment in
contravention of the patient’s directive, the force of this directive essentially vanishes…Read more

The Limits of Autonomy: Force-Feedings in Catholic Hospitals and in Prisons by Ann Neumann

“The right of sovereignty was the right to take life or let live. And then this new right is established: the right to make live and to let die.” For perhaps the first time in human history, the definition of death changed in the 1970s with the advent of new medical technologies…Read more

Advance Directives, Dementia, and Eligibility for Physician-Assisted Death by Paul T. Menzel

In most of the jurisdictions where some form of physician-assisted death (PAD)
is legal, the requesting individual must be competent to make medical decisions at
the time of assistance. The requirement of contemporary competence is intended to
ensure that PAD is limited to people who genuinely want to die and have
decisionmaking cognitive ability at the time of a final choice with such enormous
import…Read more

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms for Intractable Medical Futility Disputes by Thaddeus Mason Pope

In January 2008, seventy-three-year-old Ruben Betancourt was admitted to Trinitas Hospital, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, for surgery on a thymus gland tumor. While the surgery was successful, during his post-operative recovery, Mr. Betancourt’s endotracheal tube became dislodged. This resulted in severe, irreversible brain damage. Mr. Betancourt was subsequently discharged to other health care facilities…Read more…

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