Family Challenges to End of Life Decisionmaking

Exploring legal and public policy issues of elder law in class is one aspect students appreciate at Regent University School of Law. Amy K. Vitale, Regent Law Juris Doctor 2012, focused on policy implications in her research on life-saving measures. Researching the use of routine medical overtreatment which can in turn foster euthanasia, her article is entitled, "My Achy-Breaky Heart: How routine medical overtreatment has forced the need for a complex legal approach to euthanasia." Vitale discusses the challenges to considering a lifesaving medical invention that may prolong life to the point of causing a patient to instead suffer longer for death.

The question every patient faces is whether life-lengthening measures are always the most desirable in end of life decision making. Families and individual patients struggle with these decisions. Vitale writes, "End of life decision-making is inevitably painful and is wrought with difficult and complicated questions of what medical treatment to pursue or not pursue. Modern medical technology is among the many marvelous advantages of life in the twenty-first century. Despite its acknowledgeable flaws, the American medical system still affords greater opportunities for medical treatment than at any other point or place in history. However, though modern medical technology has made what was once thought impossible, possible, it has also opened the door to scores of new ethical issues – ethical issues for which academics, medical professionals, politicians, and lawyers have struggled to build a functional framework. The tireless application of medical technology that has advanced and prolonged human life has also forced a societal and legal debate over whether a person may deem their life so unlivable as to end it voluntarily." Read her entire article here.

Families and individuals facing these challenging questions are not alone. With the assistance of good doctors and lawyers, and spiritual counsel, medical decision making, though on a new horizon, can bring families restorative powers for loved ones even in end of life decision making.

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