physician-assisted suicide

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As noted in the concurring opinion of Myers v. Schneiderman, physician-assisted suicide is when the patient performs a life-ending act with the assistance of a physician. By early 2024, physician-assisted suicide has been legalized in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, and New Mexico. Except for Montana, which legalized physician-assisted suicide through a court ruling, the other 9 states and D.C. legalized physician-assisted suicide by legislation. However, physician-assisted suicide is affirmatively prohibited on the federal level and in most states.

In Washington v. Glucksberg, the United States Supreme Court concluded that the right to physician-assisted suicide is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause. The Court emphasized that suicide is a serious public-health issue, particularly for vulnerable groups including the economically disadvantaged, the elderly, disabled people, and terminally ill people. In addition, physician-assisted suicide could interfere with the integrity and ethics of the medical profession and lead to voluntary or even involuntary euthanasia

Opinion 5.7 of the American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics explains the objections to physician-assisted suicide, while Opinion 1.1.7 discusses some considerations in support of physician-assisted suicide.

[Last updated in March of 2024 by the Wex Definitions Team]