Home  Coloradoan Archives  Sr. Voice Archives  FAQs  Links 
Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
Senior Voice Archives

September 6, 1999: Kvorkian in Colorado?; Delaying Estate Planning due to Congress

Q: What would happen in Colorado if a doctor helped someone die?

A: In 1997 the U.S. Supreme Court held that no one had a constitutional right to have a doctor help with death. The Court further said that within certain constitutional limits, the states could specifically ban such acts.

Any active assistance by a physician in hastening the death of a person is made a criminal act in Colorado by statute. See 18-3-104 (a)(2) C.R.S. Thus, it would appear that some of the actions that have happened in other states could very well be held in violation of our statute.

In a sense a living will is a form of suicide and that is why requirements vary from state to state (and I believe living wills are still not permitted in certain jurisdictions). The difference between a living will and your question is that the patient under the governing statute either refuses medical treatment or through the living will stops certain procedures. The doctor is not making an independent decision or taking actions based upon that decision.

It is generally acknowledged that federal legislation could make physician- assisted deaths or living wills uniform throughout the United States. But so far such attempts have not succeeded.

Q: I am going to wait to do my estate planning since Congress has eliminated the estate tax.

A: That may not be a good decision. If President Clinton does not veto the bill, several members of Congress say that they only voted for the recently passed legislation because after the estate tax is fully eliminated in about ten years, there is a provision that automatically re-establishes it in the year 2009. So right now some question whether the present bill actually permanently eliminated estate taxes, even if it should become effective.

But if President Clinton vetoes the bill, remember it only passed 50/49 in the Senate. It is unlikely to garner the necessary 2/3's vote. With the November elections and then the January swearing in, it could be well into the latter part of next year before anything will emerge. So do your planning now, but in such a way as to be able to adjust if and when changes occur.

As a side note, given the dramatic increase in the stock market over the last four years, many people refuse to do their planning based upon their current taxable worth, either believing it really is not true or wanting to wait to see if their wealth might drop. Either position is risky and potentially damaging to the beneficiaries.

Q: I need my handicap parking rights but I heard that a recently passed Colorado law might take them away from me.

A: As of July 1, 1999, if in fact you are disabled, then you have nothing to fear. But if you are not, or if someone uses your vehicle and the use is not a "direct benefit" to you, then you might have your handicapped tag revoked or at least suspended. The non-handicapped user could be subject to civil and criminal penalties, as can you if you improperly obtained a handicapped placard in the first place.

It is really too early to know what kind of impact this law will have but now is the time to be sure that your handicapped parking privileges are properly used.

Home  Coloradoan Archives  Sr. Voice Archives  FAQs  Links