Currently, several states in the U.S. allow physician assisted suicide, sometimes referred to as physician assisted death or PAD. However, the majority of U.S. states still prohibit doctors from assisting patients with suicide. States that permit physicians to assist patients with suicide or provide medical aid in dying as of the date of this article include California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, and Vermont. This practice is also permitted in the District of Columbia. Because state laws on death with dignity are being revised frequently, the list of states that allow physician assisted suicide is likely to change.
Below is information on state laws in jurisdictions where doctors may assist terminally ill patients with dying. If you are reviewing your end of life options and getting the legal paperwork in order, review our section on advance directives for an overview. You may also want to learn about executing a health care POA or related forms.
Physician assisted death is available to residents of the State of California as of June 9, 2016 under the End of Life Option Act which was passed by the California legislature in 2015. To learn more about the requirements for physician assisted suicide in California and the current status of the law, go to the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California.
Physician assisted death is permitted in the State of Colorado after passage of Colorado Proposition 106 in 2016. The law is referred to as the End of Life Options Act. A good resource for detailed information about Colorado's medical aid in dying law is the
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment site.
District of Columbia D.C.
The District of Columbia has a physician assisted death law titled the Death with Dignity Act of 2016. For information and forms related to the law, refer to the District government website.
The Hawaii law on physician assisted death is the Our Care, Our Choice Act. If you would like information on requirements that must be met under the Hawaii medical aid in dying law, visit the
Hawaii State Department of Health site.
Physician assisted death is permitted in Maine in qualifying circumstances as provided in the Maine Death with Dignity Act which became law in 2019.
Physician assisted suicide is permitted in the State of Montana based on a ruling of the Montana Supreme Court in 2009. For information on the laws applicable to medical aid in dying in Montana, refer to the
Montana Official State Website.
Physician assisted death is permitted in the State of New Jersey in qualifying circumstances pursuant to the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, known as the MAID Act, which became law in 2019. Information on state law requirements for medical aid in dying in NJ is available on the
New Jersey Department of Health site.
Physician assisted suicide is available to terminally ill residents of the State of Oregon if they meet certain requirements under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. For more detailed information on physician assisted suicide in Oregon, as well as required end of life forms, visit the Oregon Public Health website.
For information on physician assisted suicide in the State of Vermont under The Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act, including the requirements that must be met under this state law, visit the Vermont Department of Health.
Physician assisted suicide is available to terminally ill residents of the State of Washington if they meet certain requirements under the Washington Death with Dignity Act. A good resource for end of life forms and the requirements to comply with the law is the Washington State Department of Health.
State Laws on Medical Aid in Dying
In this article Pennyborn.com provides an overview of laws in various U.S. states that may permit terminally ill patients to request and obtain assistance from a physician in dying if certain requirements are met. Please note, although information may be listed on this site indicating a medical aid in dying law has passed in a particular state, do not rely on this information. Because opponents of physician assisted suicide are attempting to have these laws repealed, obtain court rulings overturning such laws, etc., state laws on physician assisted death and related options are subject to change at any time. Consult your physician or health care provider for the most current information about these options. To find state statutes for your state, refer to our section on state laws.The terms physician assisted death and medical aid in dying are now commonly used to describe the practices discussed in this article. The terms physician assisted suicide and euthanasia were sometimes used in the past. The preferred terminology may vary depending on the jurisdiction.
Laws on Medical Aid in Dying Where You Live
As noted above, the list of U.S. states where physician assisted death is legal changes frequently. Legislation to allow doctors to assist terminally ill patients with ending their suffering is being proposed in a growing number of state legislatures. At the same time, however, opponents of physician assisted suicide are taking action to stop such legislation or repeal state laws that have already been passed to allow it. Several states passed physician assisted suicide laws in the past few years. Some people relocate solely to become residents of a state where medical aid in dying is legal.
Meeting State Law Requirements for Physician Assisted Death
Even if a person seeking medical aid in dying resides in or becomes a resident of a jurisdiction where it is legal for a doctor to prescribe the medications used in physician assisted suicide, several requirements must be met before a physician may lawfully provide medical aid in dying. The requirements vary from state to state so it is not possible to list them here. Nevertheless, examples of requirements that may apply include: a. being diagnosed with a terminal illness or incurable disease that is irreversible; b. being diagnosed as having less than a certain number of months to live; c. meeting any psychological requirements, such as passing a psychological evaluation; d. obtaining the opinion or approval of a second physician; e. making both oral and written requests for the assistance; and f. complying with any waiting period that may apply.To determine requirements for physician assisted death in a particular state, you may wish to review all applicable state laws and regulations, contact the state department of health and human services, and consult an estate planning lawyer. Finding an attorney.Due to the costs involved in physician assisted death, you may want to contact your health insurance provider to determine if you have coverage for any portion of the costs.
Advocacy for PAD in the United States
Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the most well known advocate of the right to assisted death, passed away on June 3, 2011. In his efforts to stimulate a national debate on the right to physician assisted suicide, Dr. Kevorkian went so far as to videotape the assisted death of his patient. He then intentionally aired it on national television, which ultimately led to him spending nearly a decade in prison for committing an act which is now legal in some U.S. states.Dr. Kevorkian said he witnessed his own mother suffer tremendous pain while she was dying from cancer. It was reported he and his sisters asked her doctor to help her pass, but the doctor refused. This experience may have had a great impact on how Jack Kevorkian viewed requests for euthanasia from those suffering a painful and debilitating terminal illness. Dr. Jack Kevorkian made personal sacrifices to advocate for his position on physician assisted death.Those who have watched a loved one suffer through the end stages of cancer, ALS, Parkinsons, AIDS, leukemia, Alzheimers, and similar types of diseases may be concerned about how laws prohibiting physician assisted suicide could affect them in the future. This article highlights recent state law developments in the area of euthanasia or medical aid in dying and identifies states that may permit physicians to assist qualifying patients in exercising more control over their end of life options.Pennyborn.com does not take a position on physician assisted suicide. This legal information website merely provides educational information on laws in the United States.
End of Life Planning
Although the primary focus of Pennyborn.com is
estate planning and estate administration, a key element of making an estate plan is executing the forms required to make clear your wishes regarding end of life care, life support, and other medical treatment. To learn about the documents you need to ensure your last wishes regarding medical care are honored, see medical decisions.
Physician Assisted Death Laws in Other States
An excellent resource on the right to die or physician assisted suicide is
The World Federation of Right to Die Societies. If you want the right to assisted death in the event you suffer a terminal illness, their website provides information on legislative developments in various U.S. states and jurisdictions throughout the world, as well as resources for those with an immediate interest in death with dignity options.Copyright 2020 Pennyborn.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This article was updated on September 4, 2019.
INFORMATION ON THIS SITE, INCLUDING ARTICLES, ESTATE PLANNING FORMS, AND THE ESTATE PLANNING BLOG, DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL, FINANCIAL OR TAX ADVICE. Pennyborn.com is not a law firm and is not a substitute for a lawyer. Your use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Information on this site is for educational purposes only and may not be accurate, complete or up to date.
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