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Physician-Assisted Death for the Terminally Ill

Physician-Assisted Death for the Terminally Ill

New Death with Dignity Bill Proposed in Indiana

Whether it’s from cancer, Alzheimer’s, or another chronic disease, watching a loved one slip away can be a heart-wrenching struggle. Not only do patients wish to spare their family the burden of care, but loved ones often feel helpless on the sidelines. Now, one Indiana representative is hoping to mitigate the suffering by giving terminally ill patients the ability to choose how and when they die.

Earlier this year, State Representative Matt Pierce proposed the End of Life Options Act or Death with Dignity bill. If passed, the new legislation would give terminally ill patients the right to receive life-ending medication. With strong beliefs on both sides, physician-assisted death remains a hot-button topic. While the bill awaits approval or rejection, let’s explore what this new law could mean for Hoosiers facing a grim diagnosis.

How Death with Dignity Works

Indiana’s new proposed bill would allow terminally ill patients to prematurely end their life by requesting a lethal dose of medication from a physician. Although the process sounds straightforward, strict guidelines must be followed carefully. Also, patients must meet these eligibility requirements to be considered:

  • Diagnosed with an incurable medical condition
  • Confirmation of the diagnosis by a second doctor
  • Determined to have six or fewer months to live
  • At least 18 years old
  • An Indiana resident

Once a patient is deemed eligible, they would begin the life-ending process by telling their doctor their desire for physician-assisted death. Before proceeding, the doctor must inform the patient of alternatives like palliative care, hospice, and pain management. And while not required, the doctor can also request the patient to notify family or next-of-kin about their decision.

Next, the patient fills out a written request to receive the medication in the presence of two witnesses. One of those witnesses must be a neutral third party and cannot be an heir to the estate, an owner or employee of the medical facility treating the patient, or related to the patient by blood, marriage, or adoption. After the first request is filed, the patient must wait 15 days before submitting a second request for the life-ending drug. Once approved, a prescription can be filled by a pharmacist and picked up by a designated friend or family member. Lastly, the patient needs to be able to consume the pill without any assistance voluntarily.

Throughout the decision to choose a premature death, a patient’s well-being and state of mind are carefully monitored. Before the medication can be dispensed, a psychological evaluation may be required to ensure the patient is of sound mind. For example, a dementia patient unaware of the time, place, and circumstances would not qualify for a physician-assisted death. But a person with end-stage cancer who is mentally competent could be deemed eligible.

End of Life Financial Concerns

If you or a loved one are facing a terminal diagnosis, life insurance is probably the last thing on your mind. But it’s important not to overlook an essential financial policy that could help take care of family after death. But most insurance policies include a clause denying payment for death caused by suicide. So what about a physician-assisted death? According to the new bill, an insurance policy would be protected, and a life insurer could not legally withhold funds based on legal death with medical aid.

Facing these tough topics isn’t easy, but it’s essential to know your rights within the law. As legal precedents are set and laws change, the attorneys at BB&C stay on top of the newest Indiana legislation so you don’t have to. And whatever your needs, we’re here for you. Reach out today to Cecelia Neihouser Harper at 765-637-9175.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.

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