The area of elder law and special needs planning is constantly evolving. On November 8, 2016, Colorado joined a handful of states—Washington, Oregon, California and Vermont—that have Death with Dignity laws, or physician-aid-in-dying laws. (Montana also allows it under a 2009 State Supreme Court ruling.)

What are Death with Dignity Laws?

According to the website, death with dignity is an end-of-life option that allows certain terminally ill people to voluntarily and legally request and receive a prescription medication from their physician to hasten their death in a peaceful, humane and dignified manner. They reject the terms “assisted suicide,” “doctor-assisted suicide” and “euthanasia.”

To qualify under Death with Dignity statues, you must be an adult resident of a state where such a law is in effect; be mentally competent (capable of making and communicating your healthcare decisions); and diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months, as confirmed by two physicians. The process includes two oral requests, one written request, waiting periods and other requirements. You must be able to administer and ingest the medications yourself. Physician participation in the law is strictly voluntary.

What’s in the Future?

The Death with Dignity movement has been joined by like-minded national groups, such as Compassion and Choices, the ACLU and the Secular Coalition, and on-the-ground efforts of local grassroots groups. Washington, DC just passed the first of two required votes, with the second coming in 2017.

Efforts are currently underway with grassroots groups and nonprofit organizations in Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and advocates in several other states.

The movement has started, not surprisingly, with the more progressive, liberal states and works through the legislative process. It has not yet been tested in more traditional, conservative states.

Elder law and special needs planning are continually changing areas of law. If you have any questions or would like to speak to us about elder law or special needs planning, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 678-781-9230.

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