Would You Want This In Your Advance Medical Directive?

Jerome Medalie can’t imagine life with Alzheimer’s. And, he has made it known that he doesn’t want to be around if he can’t “recognize his loved ones” or “articulate coherent thoughts and sentences.” He did so formally and legally in his Advance Medical Directive.

According to a recent New York Times blog post, if Jerome Medalie, who resides in Massachusetts, develops Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, he has specified that he refuses “ordinary means of nutrition and hydration.” He specifically listed 10 triggering conditions, and if any three such disabilities persist for several weeks, he wants his health care proxy — his wife, Beth Lowd — to ensure that nobody tries to keep him alive by spoon-feeding or offering him liquids.

VSED, short for “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking,” is not unheard-of as an end-of-life strategy, typically used by older adults who hope to hasten their decline from terminal conditions, such as dementia. Including VSED in Advance Medical Directives sparks several ethical considerations. (Please see italicized text below.) Readers, we want to hear from you! Please comment with your feedback on the following:

185962902 In your opinion, do you think people who develop dementia should be able to use VSED to end their lives by including such instructions in an advance directive? As the New York Times article states, “Can one’s current, competent self make decisions on behalf of one’s future demented self — who may find modest pleasure, years later, in a life once deemed intolerable? What if that later self asks for, or points to, applesauce?”

Thanks in advance for your comments on this topic!

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.