Assisted Suicide in the United States

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6/23/2009
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Assisted suicide is defined as suicide committed with the aid of another person, sometimes a doctor. “Assisted suicide" has been used to describe what proponents refer to as medical aid in dying in the United States for terminally ill adults who self-administer barbiturates if they feel that they are suffering significantly. The term is often used interchangeably with physician-assisted suicide (PAS), "physician-assisted dying", "physician-assisted death", "assisted death" and "aid in dying". Assisted suicide is similar to but distinct from euthanasia (sometimes called "mercy killing"). In cases of euthanasia, another party acts to bring about the person's death in order to end ongoing suffering. In cases of assisted suicide, a second person provides the means through which the individual is able to voluntarily end their own life, but they do not directly cause the individual's death. Physician-assisted death or "medical aid in dying" is legal in ten jurisdictions: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, Maine (starting January 1, 2020), New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. These laws (excluding Montana since there is no law) expressly state that "actions taken in accordance with [the Act] shall not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing or homicide, under the law". This distinguishes the legal act of “medical aid in dying” from the act of helping someone commit suicide, which is prohibited by statute in 42 states and prohibited by common law in an additional six states and the District of Columbia. Opponents see no such distinction. A 2018 poll by Gallup displayed that a solid majority of Americans, with 72 percent in favor, support laws allowing patients to seek the assistance of a physician in ending their life. Nevertheless, assisted suicide remains illegal in a majority of states across the nation.
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Assisted death in the United States
Medical aid in dying in the United States
Assisted Death in the United States
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