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South Dakota Euthanasia Laws

Having a loved one with a painful, debilitating, terminal illness can be a tragic and agonizing experience. Sometimes it’s hard not to think of ways to ease their suffering, and those thoughts sometimes turn to physician-assisted suicide. So what exactly are the laws regarding euthanasia?

The federal government does not have assisted suicide laws. Those laws are handled at the state level. This is a brief summary of euthanasia laws in South Dakota.

South Dakota Laws Prohibiting Physician-Assisted Suicide

In South Dakota, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are both treated as a crime. If found guilty, a person could spend years in jail or prison.

Refusing Treatment

However, in 1990 the U.S. Supreme Court did rule that patients or their designated health care agents may refuse life-preserving medical treatment, including feeding tubes. A health care agent is an individual named by the patient to make health care decisions on their behalf, usually through a durable power of attorney. Health care agents typically follow a patient's wishes laid out in a living will or "do not resuscitate" form.

Physician-Assisted Suicide vs. Euthanasia

While both physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia involve the use of lethal medications to deliberately end a patient's life, the key difference is in who acts to end the patient's life. In physician-assisted suicide, the patient must self-administer the medications provided by a physician. The patient decides whether and when to ingest the lethal medication. Euthanasia, on the other hand, occurs when a third party administers medication or acts directly to end the patient's life. Euthanasia is illegal in every state, including South Dakota.

Learn more about South Dakota's euthanasia law in the following table. See FindLaw's Patient Rights section for related materials.

Code Section 34-12D-14, 20
Euthanasia Legal? Euthanasia, mercy killing, or assisted suicide is not condoned or authorized by South Dakota law.
Physician-Assisted Suicide Legal? Death by withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment does not constitute suicide or homicide.

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

More Information

For more information on laws relating to end-of-life decisions in South Dakota, click on the links below to access additional resources. You can also find more information by reading more on the general topics relating to this issue, such as elder law, health care law, and estate planning. Finally, given the important and highly personal nature of this topic, you may want to consider consulting with or retaining an elder law or estate planning attorney to help ensure that your end-of-life decisions are made according to your wishes.

Research the Law

South Dakota Euthanasia Laws: Related Resources

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