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PhysicianAssisted Suicide

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PhysicianAssisted Suicide
176  |  A Legal guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples
Qualifications for Witnesses
Many states require that two witnesses watch you sign your health care
documents and that they verify in writing that you appeared to be of sound
mind and signed the documents without anyone else influencing your
decision.
Each state’s qualifications for these witnesses are slightly different. In
many states, for example, a spouse, another close relative, or any person who
would get property from you at your death (this includes anyone you name
in your will) is not allowed to act as a witness for the document directing
health care. And many states prohibit your attending physician from being a
witness.
The purpose of the laws restricting who can witness your documents is to
avoid any appearance or possibility that another person was acting against
your wishes in encouraging specific medical care. States that prevent close
relatives or potential inheritors from being witnesses, for example, justify
their restrictions by noting that these people may have a conflict of interest.
Physician-Assisted Suicide
Behind closed doors, many doctors acknowledge that they have helped
gravely ill patients end their own lives—many of them by writing large
prescriptions for drugs, ostensibly to help patients with sleeping or pain
problems.
Doctor-assisted suicide is currently a crime in almost all states. Oregon
is the only state that allows doctor-assisted life ending. But legislation
arises each year in other states proposing to allow voters to consider
allowing doctor-assisted lethal injections for incurably ill patients. Some
states have established commissions to study and make recommendations
on the issue.
The Internet provides current information about the legalities and
practicalities of physician-assisted suicide. One of the most complete
websites is the Euthanasia World Directory, at www.finalexit.org.
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