How Did Dying Get So Complicated?

Posted on: Friday, May 31st, 2019

People like to blame lawyers for everything that’s wrong with society, and in this case, they might be right – sort of.

When we get sick, we see doctors. Nobody actually pays their doctor for care anymore.  If you have private insurance, your insurance company determines what type of care you will get.  If you don’t have private insurance, then you will deal with government bureaucracies like Medicare, Medicaid and even the Veterans Administration.  These institutions have given rise to healthcare systems that provide care options far and away more beneficial than what existed without them.  And as a result, people are living longer and, in many instances, enjoying an active lifestyle into their 90’s and beyond.  But modern medicine came at a cost.  With all of these advances came thousands, probably millions, of rules and regulations. All written by lawyers, no doubt.

And of course doctors are also regulated by the plaintiff’s bar which sues doctors and hospitals for money damages if mistakes are made.

In terms of a patient’s wishes, even that is complicated.  Can they make their own decisions, or have they appointed a patient advocate?  Do they have an advanced directive? Do they need a guardian?  Lawyers prepare patient advocate designations for their clients, and go to court when needed, to have guardians appointed.

If someone needs government benefits, what are the rules for qualifying?  Medicare is available to people who paid taxes and reach the age of 65.  But it is also available to younger people who become “disabled.”  Of course being deemed “disabled” is a legal term of art.  As for Medicaid and Veterans benefits, there are a myriad of rules about what you can own, how much your home is worth, and whether you have given assets away prior to seeking benefits?  Lawyers work with clients on these issues all the time.

Even funerals are highly regulated.  Elder law attorneys who help clients with Medicaid benefits know that Medicaid limits how much someone can put aside for their funeral.  And estate planning lawyers help clients designate a funeral representative so that someone has legal authority to make arrangements.

People like to blame lawyers for everything that’s wrong with society, and in this case, they might be right – sort of.   But perhaps “blame” isn’t the right word.   It might be more accurate to say that you can “attribute” most of the complexities of society to laws and lawyers. The word “blame” suggests that it’s a bad thing to have a complex society.  And while it is annoying, even maddening at times, the truth is that most of us want the benefits of the many rules and regulations that give rise to these complexities, and that society, as we know it, simply wouldn’t function without them.

And so, like everything else in our world today, dying just isn’t that simple.

mm By: Chalgian & Tripp
Chalgian & Tripp