Possible catch-22 identified in right-to-die states

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More states are passing right-to-die laws laden with strict eligibility rules that could cause complications for seniors and their caregivers.

They typically include a diagnosis of less than six months to live, an ability to self-administer a lethal prescription and mental competency at the time when the drug is requested. The last two requirements can essentially rule out dementia and stroke victims, according to a Mercury News story.

Yet as people live longer, strokes and Alzheimer's disease are becoming more common. Stroke was the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States in 2013, whereas Alzheimer's came in sixth. Although stroke recovery can be possible, Alzheimer's does not have a cure.

The Mercury News quoted Donna Cohen, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa, who acknowledged that the question of how to apply right-to-die laws to someone with dementia is a sticky one. Even if a person were to feel strongly about not wanting to live with advanced dementia, the person's feelings might change as the disease progresses, she noted.

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