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Delaware Euthanasia Laws

The notion of a loved one having a debilitating, painful, and terminal illness is unbearable. And we naturally tend to think of ways in which we could ease or end their suffering. Killing or permitting the death of a hopelessly sick or injured person is legally known as euthanasia. But how do state laws handle euthanasia? This is a brief summary of euthanasia laws in Delaware.

Euthanasia Laws

Physician-assisted suicide or mercy killings normally arise in cases of terminal illness or similar life-limiting condition. Nearly every state outlaws euthanasia to some extent. Deliberate mercy killings are not permitted under Delaware’s euthanasia statutes, but withholding or withdrawal of "life-sustaining" measures may be allowed.

Euthanasia Statutes in Delaware

Euthanasia laws in Delaware are highlighted in the chart below.

Code Section 16 §2512
Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes? Nothing in this act condones, authorizes, or approves of mercy killing; permits any affirmative act or omission to end life other than to permit the natural process of dying
Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures Neither execution of declaration nor fact that maintenance medical treatment is withheld from patient in accordance with the declaration shall constitute suicide.

In 1997, the United States Supreme Court decided in favor of the government's interest in preventing intentional killing and preserving life, ruling that interest outweighs a citizen’s liberty interest in having the choice to die. Therefore, there's no constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide. However, the Court did distinguish between a physician proactively ending a patient's life (which is not permitted) and passively refusing or removing life-saving medical treatment (which can be permitted). Likewise, states also have the option of making the same distinction under their laws, as Delaware has done.

Very few states have enacted laws protecting a patient's right to die. And even in those states, doctors are only permitted to provide lethal doses of certain drugs at their patients' request; it is the patients themselves who must control the act of self-administering the doses.

Delaware Euthanasia Laws: Related Resources

Even now, euthanasia is a divisive issue in health and constitutional law. And the state statutes regulating a person’s right and choice to die may change. If you would like legal assistance regarding a terminal health care matter, you can contact a Delaware health care attorney. You can also visit FindLaw's Patient Rights section for more articles and resources on this topic.

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