Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Someone Else Is Allowed to Speak (and Write) for the Patient

Yesterday, the Dakota Free Press ran an interesting article about the proposed initiated measure, which seeks to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in South Dakota.

The article, however, contains two errors. This is understandable given the measure's deceptive language.

The article says that nothing in the measure authorizes anyone to "speak" for the patient during the lethal dose request process and that "the patient herself must make every request."

These statements are erroneous due to the measure's definition of "competency," which allows someone else to communicate for the patient, as long as the communicating person is "familiar with the patient's manner of communicating." The measure states:
Competency,” [means] in the opinion of a court or in the opinion of the patient’s attending physician or consulting physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist, a patient’s ability to make and communicate an informed decision to health care providers, including communication through persons familiar with the patient's manner of communicating if those persons are available ....  (Emphasis added).
Initiated measure, sec 1(2).

"Communicate" is also a broad term that includes speaking and writing. Someone else is allowed to communicate (speak and write) for the patient.

* * *

Note also that being "familiar with the patient’s manner of communicating” is a very minimal standard. Consider, for example, a doctor’s assistant who is familiar with a patient's “manner of communicating” in Spanish, but she, herself, does not understand Spanish. That, however, would be good enough for her to communicate for the patient during the lethal dose request process.

The bottom line: Someone else is allowed to speak and write for the patient, even a stranger.