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Pennsylvania Euthanasia Laws

Euthanasia Overview

Euthanasia can be a controversial issue. It is often referred to as a "mercy killing," and constitutes the taking of another's life who is terminally ill or otherwise ready to die. Only a couple of states allow physician-assisted suicide, but most states allow the withdrawal of life support machinery like respirators or feeding tubes. Pennsylvania's euthanasia laws allow for this type of withholding of life-sustaining treatments without the fear of homicide charges.

Euthanasia is illegal in most states because it is such a sensitive and controversial subject, with tangible parallels to the abortion debate. Proponents believe it is an essential human right to have the power to end one's own life in order to avoid serious pain or other limitations related to a terminal illness. Opponents argue that it is not the job of medical professionals to end one's life, and that it violates the doctor's role as healer. This argument became national news when Dr. Jack Kevorkian devised methods for helping people end their lives.

Pennsylvania Law

Anyone who "intentionally aids or solicits another to commit suicide" in Pennsylvania may be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor (one to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine). This may include procuring the necessary supplies or confirming the plan through email or other communications, but without actually going through with the plan and attempting the suicide.

If the person's actions actually cause a suicide, or even a failed attempt, then the charges are bumped up to a second-degree felony (up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines).

Learn more about Pennsylvania euthanasia laws and related matters below. See FindLaw's Patient Rights section for related articles.

Code Section 20 §5402; §5410
Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes? Mercy killing, euthanasia, aided suicide is not condoned, authorized, or approved; nor is any affirmative or deliberate act to end life other than defined by this Act.
Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures Withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment in accordance with this chapter shall not constitute suicide or homicide.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact an Pennsylvania health care attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Euthanasia Laws: Related Resources

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