In a recent European Court of Human Rights case , Alda Gross claimed a right to aid-in-dying. While Ms. Gross has no known pathological condition or clinical illness, she contended that she has the right to assisted suicide because she’s a frail elderly woman and has no desire to continue life.
The Gross case highlights an pervasive legal limitation that now seems disjointed with medical reality. Most jurisdictions where aid-in-dying is expressly authorized (e.g. OR, VT, WA) require that a patient have a terminal illness to be eligible for the service. Similarly, many jurisdictions require the patient to have a terminal illness before a surrogate can legally decide to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment.
But like Ms. Gross, most of us do not die from a terminal illness. We die from organ failure or from frailty. It is time to update and expand the legally recognized triggering conditions for making end-of-life treatment decisions to hasten death.