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Should my estate plan discuss euthanasia or assisted suicide?

When you are planning for old age and beyond, you'll be making changes to your estate plan. Your estate plan is a group of important legal documents that dictate what you'd like to see happen if you are unable to make decisions for yourself or if you pass away.

One thing you can address in your estate plan is the preference you have for medical care. New York does not allow "mercy" killings or euthanasia, which is when an elderly or terminally ill person could choose to die over continuing to fight for life. However, New York does allow life-saving treatments, life-sustaining machines and life-sustaining procedures to be withdrawn if the person does not wish to be revived once the vital organs have shut down.

Euthanasia is not condoned in any of the 50 states, but some states do allow for physician-assisted suicides. Only five, New Mexico, Vermont, Montana, Oregon and Washington, allow physician-assisted suicides at this time, but the patient must be the one to deliver the life-ending drug. In euthanasia cases, which are not legal, the physician would administer the life-ending drug.

Why does your end-of-life preference matter in your estate plan?

You appoint a health-care proxy in your estate plan, and this individual should also uphold your end-of-life wishes. This includes your right to reject life-saving procedures once your organs or bodily functions stop working. You can include a medical form in your estate plan to dictate what you'd like to have happen if you are terminally ill so that there is no question as to the type of treatment you want to receive.

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