Kansas and Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Explains The Potential Ethical Dilemmas Health Care Professionals Face If A Death With Dignity Statute Passed

According to Deathwithdignity.org, seven out of every ten Americans favor some death with dignity legislation. California enacted the most recent death with dignity statute. Their law went into effect on June 9, 2016. The statute’s enactment received enormous publicity.  The law on its face appears to conflict directly with a heath care professional’s ethical obligation to preserve life rather than end life. As death with dignity advocacy groups’ message gains momentum, there is a real possibility that other states, including Kansas and Missouri, will pass such laws. Kansas and Missouri professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger understands the ethical obligations of health care professionals. Attorney Sanger zealously represents professional licensee facing discipline against their license.

Kansas and Missouri had bills pending in their respective legislatures seeking to enact a death with dignity statute. Kansas’ Bill was originally filed on January 28, 2015, and referred to a Committee for Health and Human Services. The Committee delayed action on the Bill until 2016. The Bill is no longer viable because of inaction by the Committee, which caused the Bill to miss legislative deadlines and therefore is not viable.  A previous death with dignity bill expired in the legislature in 2013.  A Missouri legislator filed a death with dignity bill in 2015. The Bill was the first of its kind filed in Missouri. The legislature refused to consider the Bill and the proposed legislation lapsed. Notwithstanding, Kansas and Missouri can take the issue up again in the future.

California’s death with dignity legislation purports to guide health care professionals in making decisions consonant with their ethical obligations to their patients, fidelity to the oath they swore, and their moral understanding as humans. Notwithstanding, the law obligates the patient’s physician to give the person the opportunity to change their mind because a request for an aid-in-dying prescription may only be made by the patient, and not via a legal guardian or health care proxy.  The physician must make sure that the patient is of sound mind, or if there is a question, the doctor must make a referral to a mental health professional.  The person must be an adult who has a terminal disease, and the person makes the request voluntarily. The physician must comply with the reporting requirements prescribed by the statute. The physician must ensure the request is in writing on the prescribed form, signed by the patient and two independent witnesses.

The statute specifically protects the prescribing physician from certain civil, criminal, or licensing sanctions.  The health care provider cannot be sanctioned for merely being present when the patient ingests the aid-in-dying drugs. The health care provider may prepare the drugs for the patient but may not administer the drugs. The patient must do that alone. Additionally, a health care provider cannot be sanctioned for diagnosing a person with a terminal disease and informing the patient about the prognosis as long as the physician complied with the appropriate duty of care when reaching those conclusions. The health care provider may not be sanctioned for evaluating whether the patient qualifies for the aid-in-dying prescription.  The physician may provide information about aid in dying drugs without sanction. The physician may also refer the patient to another physician without fear of sanction. The health care provider always has a duty to act professionally and comply with the statute.

Kansas and Missouri Licensing Attorney Ready To Fight For You

Some ethical issues, like issues dignity in death statutes create, are not clear cut. You need a zealous advocate to defend your professional license. Call Kansas and Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Danielle Sanger today at 785-979-4353 to schedule your free consultation.