Expert: Texas Tech Professor Available to Discuss Estate Effects of Maynard Death
November 3, 2014
How might this effect distribution of her estate, life insurance policies.
This weekend, the right-to-die controversy reached a critical juncture when 29-year-old
Brittany Maynard went through with her planned death through Oregon's “Death With
Dignity” law, which allows doctors to prescribe lethal amounts of drugs for terminally
ill individuals. Maynard had been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and publicly
expressed her plan to end her life rather than slowly suffer from the effects of the
One question from this form of death centers around its legal ramifications. Because
many could consider Maynard's death suicide, does this automatically negate life insurance
policies, and what happens to her estate? If she planned for retirement, what becomes
of her plans, such as 401k accounts? Gerry W. Beyer, the Gov. Preston E. Smith Regents
Professor of Law in the Texas Tech School of Law, is a frequent contributor to publications and has authored numerous books and articles
regarding estate planning.
Gerry Beyer, Gov. Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law, Texas Tech University,
(806) 834-4270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Not only did Maynard go public with her planned death, she became an advocate for
the movement allowing people to die with dignity, debating physicians and conducting
numerous media interviews. She even refused to use the word suicide because she was
already dying from cancer.
- If a doctor assists the person in procuring the fatal drugs, the term “physician-assisted
suicide” is often used. Assisted suicide in general is sometimes called “passive euthanasia”
because the euthanizer merely supplies the means of death rather than directly causing
the death. Assisted suicide can be contrasted with “voluntary euthanasia” in which
the euthanizer actually kills the patient at that patient's request. The term “involuntary
euthanasia” is reserved for cases when the euthanizer kills a person out of reasons
of mercy but when the person did not request to be killed.
- Could this case reopen the debate about whether physician-assisted death should be
allowed, and if it is, does it take away the label of suicide? If that is the case,
it could open up another debate on whether insurance or financial benefits should
be paid to beneficiaries that would normally be negated due to the fact that many
policies refuse payment if the cause of death is suicide.
- “The Oregon statute provides that a qualified patient's act of ingesting medication
to end his or her life in a humane and dignified manner has no effect upon a life,
health or accident insurance or annuity policy.”
- “Suicide, assisted or otherwise, has no impact on the validity of a will or how heirs
are determined. In the distant past, suicide did make a difference because of religious
teachings that suicide is a sin.”