“Death with dignity” is a popular phrase used to describe situations in which a patient requests a medical practitioner to help him or her die. This is common in patients with a terminal illness or a severely debilitating condition.
Wisconsin law does not allow these assisted suicides. However, you can gain some control over how your life is handled in these circumstances through your estate plan.
The fight for euthanasia
In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that physician-assisted suicide is not a constitutional right in the interest of preventing intentional killing and preserving life. Since then, physician-assisted death has been made legal in only seven states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington) and the District of Columbia.
In 2017, 26 states – including Wisconsin – saw bills seeking to change euthanasia laws. However, all 26 efforts were rejected.
What you can control
In Wisconsin, it is illegal for anyone to inject a lethal substance into a patient under any circumstances. The only way a physician can help a patient die is by removing life-sustaining measures, such as a feeding tube or respirator. By law, this would not be assisted suicide because it allows the patient to die “naturally.”
However, its common for those who require life-sustaining measures to be either incapacitated or terminally ill. These conditions may prevent the patient from expressing their wishes. To prepare for the potential of this circumstance, you can put your wishes in a living will or through the medical powers of attorney. This will help your family know what to do if this difficult situation arises.
Get help with your estate plan
To learn more about using your estate plan to prepare for the possibility of situations like this and what rights you have within them, talk to an estate planning attorney about ways to build your estate plan. An attorney can help make sure you have all of your bases covered so that your family has some direction during these difficult situations.