A Harder Death for People with Intellectual Disabilities

April 6, 2018

(New York Times) – This patient was different. Because he was born with a severe intellectual disability, the law made it much harder for him to avoid unwanted care. In New Hampshire, where I practice, and in many other states, legal guardians of people with intellectual disabilities can make most medical decisions but, by law, they cannot decline life-sustaining therapies like mechanical ventilation. These laws are meant to protect patients with disabilities from premature discontinuation of lifesaving care. Yet, my patient was experiencing the unintended downside of these laws: the selective prolonging of unpleasant and questionably helpful end-of-life care in people with disabilities.

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