It would not be acceptable, for example, to claim in the morning that you noticed that your friend or partner was unconscious but that you decided to ‘just leave them’. If the dying occurs at night time, however, the would-be discoverer might argue that they had been asleep and been unaware of what had taken place.
If an ambulance is called, the discoverer will also be protected. It is important to remember that paramedics will usually likely attempt to resuscitate an unconscious person, despite the fact that this may thwart their wish to die. Generally speaking, ambulance paramedics are generally under no legal obligation to abide by a person’s Advance Medical Directive (AMD) (Living Will/ Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) notice). Rather, paramedics will say that these issues ‘can be sorted out at the hospital.’ (For more discussion about the pros and cons of AMDs and role of emergency workers see my first book - Killing Me Softly: Voluntary Euthanasia and the Road to the Peaceful Pill.)
Another way for the discoverer to protect themselves is to call the family physician (rather than an ambulance). The physician should be aware if a AMD exists and can avoid initiating resuscitation without risking legal repercussions. A doctor who knows the background may well begin a morphine infusion (‘to make the patient comfortable’), and allow their patient to peacefully die.
The Shelf Life of Drugs
The shelf life of drugs - the time taken from manufacture to expiry date is referred to as shelf life and is an often-discussed topic at Exit workshops. It is general knowledge that most drugs will be subject to some form of degradation over time. This may be brought about by chemical, physical or microbial breakdown. This is why all drugs now include an ‘expiry date’.