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Texas Euthanasia Laws

An intentional act of killing (or permitting the death of) someone who is terminally ill, paralyzed, or otherwise wishes to end their life is called "euthanasia." Only Washington and Oregon allow doctor-assisted suicide, but Texas and many other states allow terminally ill people to have certain life-sustaining procedures withdrawn. Texas euthanasia laws, or the lack thereof, specifically state that mercy killing is not condoned nor authorized by state law.

The main provisions of Texas euthanasia laws are listed in the table below, and additional background information follows. See Details on State Euthanasia Laws to learn more.

Code Section Health & Safety 166.45-51
Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes? Mercy killing or euthanasia is not condoned or authorized by Texas law, nor is any act or omission other than to allow the natural process of dying.
Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures Withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining procedures does not constitute offense of Aiding Suicide

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Both euthanasia and assisted suicide are a form of mercy killing, and both are illegal. However, there are some differences between the two. Euthanasia generally refers to a doctor ending someone's life by a compassionate means. This may include a lethal injection, or administering a lethal overdose of a euphoric drug. Euthanasia can also refer to a non-professional ending someone's life out of compassion, although non-medical euthanasia may be more gruesome. Assisted suicide refers to a situation in which a terminally ill patient or person in pain is given the means to take their own life. Again, this can be a medical method, or a method provided by a non-professional.

Allowing The Natural Process of Dying

Although euthanasia is illegal in Texas, doctors may remove life support in order to allow a person to die naturally. This may be the case when a person's life depends on artificial processes like "iron lungs" or intravenous nutrition. Sometimes, a person is put on life support with the hope that their body will recover, and the life support may be removed. However, after some time it may become apparent that the person cannot survive without the life support. In this case, the family may wish to allow the person to pass away. However, doctors may only remove life support if the patient consents to the removal.

Consenting to Life Support Removal

In Texas, a doctor may only remove life support if the patient consents to the removal. However, given the physical condition of a person on life support, it may not be practical or possible to get their consent once they are on life support. In this situation, it is important for the patient to have previously executed a durable power of attorney, which grants another person the ability to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event of the patient's incapacity. A durable power of attorney, or living will, may also give instructions on how to handle the possibility of permanent life support.

If you would like to know more about Texas euthanasia law, there are many health care lawyers throughout the state who may be able to help. In addition to giving you information about Texas laws, a health care attorney can help you draft a health care power of attorney that states your wishes in the event that you are placed on permanent life support and cannot communicate your desires. As well, speaking with an estate planning attorney can help you plan for end-of-life issues too.

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