Would You Help Someone Die?

What would your reaction be if someone you loved asked you to help them die? 

If someone was diagnosed with a terminal illness and the loved one was taking the necessary steps to acquire the medication necessary to end their life in their own timing, how would you feel? 

It is becoming more available for people to obtain the medication to make the decision of when to end their life.  Is this considered suicide?  Is it a drug overdose?  How would the cause of death be defined? 

This is a very difficult place to be.  You may see the daily agony of the loved one while dealing with their illness.  Or, perhaps the loved one is still feeling fairly well but wants to live life to the fullest in the time they have remaining.  Or, perhaps the loved one asks for you to stay with them until the end. 

There are many circumstances that must be factored into making such decisions in addition to how you would feel about being there.  Your personal circumstances – employment, availability, financial status will need to be considered.  The totality of what will be involved needs to be considered.  And, last but not least of the things to be considered would be your feelings.  You will need to be able to live the rest of your life with the decision you make. 

Also to be considered would be the possible consequences on you and your participation in helping the loved one to administer the medication when the time comes.  Have you thought about the possible criminal aspect?  There are only a limited number of states that have death with dignity laws.  If the state doesn’t have a death with dignity law, then your participation could well be viewed as a crime. 

A decision such as this is not to be considered lightly – for both the ailing loved one as well as yourself.  If you are faced with such a situation, you may want to take time to think about your participation for there are many facets in your decision – emotional, ethical, perhaps religious or spiritual as well as criminal.   Also, you may wish to contact legal counsel to determine what the state laws are currently. 

Hopefully, you will never be put into such a situation, but if you are, think about the whole of the situation and not just the final outcome for your loved one.

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About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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