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Maryland Euthanasia Laws

None of us can bear the thought of a loved one having a debilitating, painful, and terminal illness. And naturally, we tend to think of ways in which we can 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 Maryland.

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 Maryland’s euthanasia statutes, but withholding or withdrawal of "life-sustaining" measures may be allowed.

Euthanasia Statutes in Maryland

Euthanasia laws in Maryland are highlighted in the chart below.

Code Section

Health-Gen. §§5-611 and 5-614

Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes?

Nothing in this subtitle should be construed to condone, authorize, or approve of mercy killing or euthanasia or to permit any affirmative or deliberate act or omission to end life other than to permit the natural process of dying.

Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures

Withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining procedures in accordance with this subtitle shall not for any purpose be considered to be a 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 Maryland 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.

Maryland Euthanasia Laws: Related Resources

Even now, euthanasia is a divisive issues 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 Maryland health care attorney. You can also visit FindLaw's Patient Rights section for more articles and resources on this topic.

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