Who Decides End-of-life Issues?

09.29.2005 | Law, Culture and SocietyEach year, millions of Americans face the situation Michael Schiavo did before his wife Terri died earlier this year but with much less media scrutiny.

On Oct. 11-12, experts at the University of Dayton School of Law's biennial Gilvary Symposium will discuss possible legal changes and the ethical and social justice implications of end-of-life issues.

Bill Kurtis, the anchor of A&E's "American Justice" and a former CBS reporter, will discuss how media influences the law at noon Wednesday, Oct. 12.

The symposium is free and open to the public. All events are in Keller Hall's Mathias H. Heck Courtroom. Because of limited seating, pre-registration is required. To register, contact Heather Bittenbender at (937) 229-3794.

For anyone wanting Continuing Legal Education credit, the cost is $50 for UD School of Law alumni and $100 for all others. A dinner Tuesday is included in the cost. The charge for anyone staying for dinner but not receiving CLE credit is $20.

The UDSL Volunteer Student Law Project and Volunteer Lawyers' Project will assist with free living will and healthcare power of attorney preparation from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, in Keller Hall. For more information, contact Sarah Brown at (937) 361-8552.

"Providing our students with the opportunity to obtain real-world experience while helping the community is a vital component of our new 'Lawyer as Problem Solver' curriculum," said Lori Shaw, UD School of Law assistant dean. "The new curriculum also encourages our students to ponder how their faith and personal values will factor into their work. For example, if they believe that the denial of life support is wrong, can they help a client who wishes to avoid the use of extraordinary measures to sustain his or her life?"

A mock hospital ethics board will portray the end-of-life decision-making process and how patients' families are included in the process. They also will address what might have happened had the Schiavo case been in Ohio at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Panelists include Dale Creech, chief legal officer for Premier Health Partners; David T. Ball, Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation associate director; Bobbe Nolan, a hospice nurse consultant; and Sister Carol Bauer, vice president of mission effectiveness for Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton.

"When a specific end-of-life issue is anticipated, its job is to recommend what it believes to be the ethical action," Shaw said. "Their jobs are to figure out the patient's wishes. They aren't the end of the decision-making line but part of helping the patient's family make a decision."

The symposium begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, with an overview of end-of-life law.

Lois Shepard, a Florida State University law professor; Judge Lawrence A. Belskis, Franklin County (Ohio) Probate Court; and members of the Ohio General Assembly follow with a talk about evolving standards of end-of-life issues and the legislative response to the Schiavo case.

After a break for dinner, David Orentlicher, co-director of Indiana University's William and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health, wraps up the first day discussing end-of-life law and the U.S. Constitution.

"Orentlicher's talk will center on the delicate balance the U.S. Supreme Court has sought to achieve in end-of-life cases - the states have a duty to preserve life, but people have the liberty to choose to refuse medical treatment," Shaw said. "The question today is whether the legislation proposed since Terri Schiavo's death would withstand constitutional scrutiny."

Day two begins at 8:30 a.m. with University at Albany law professor Alicia Ouellette discussing the protection of the rights of the disabled.

After the medical ethics board presentation, Thomas A. Shannon, religion and social ethics professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, will talk about Catholic teachings on end-of-life decision-making. UD law professor Harry Gerla and University of St. Thomas law professor John Stinneford will provide contrasting views about how religion should influence lawmaking.

For interviews, contact Shawn Robinson at (937) 229-3391. Bill Kurtis will be available for interviews from 10:30-11:50 a.m. and 2-2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12.