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Wisconsin Euthanasia Laws

If a loved one has a debilitating, painful, and terminal illness, it's natural to think of ways to try and ease or end their suffering. Sometimes, these thoughts can even turn to physician-assisted suicide. But how is euthanasia handled under the law? This is a quick introduction to euthanasia laws in Wisconsin.

Euthanasia Laws

Normally arising in cases of terminal illness or similar life-limiting condition, euthanasia is the act of helping another person end his or her life. Nearly every state criminalizes physician-assisted suicide to some degree. That said, several states might allow doctors or family members to withdraw life-preserving measures, like feeding tubes or respirators, under certain circumstances. Wisconsin’s Euthanasia statutes do not permit a deliberate mercy killing, but can allow removal of "life prolonging" procedures in accordance with a patient's wishes.

Euthanasia Statutes in Wisconsin

The following chart highlights the main provisions of Wisconsin euthanasia laws.

Code Section

154.11; 155.70

Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes?

Euthanasia is not condoned or authorized by Wisconsin law, nor is any affirmative or deliberate act or omission other than to allow the natural process of dying.

Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures

Withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures or feeding tubes does not constitute suicide. Execution of declaration does not constitute attempted suicide.

Federal Euthanasia Law

The Supreme Court decided in 1997 that the government's interest in preserving life and preventing intentional killing outweighs a patient's liberty interest in having the choice to die. Since then, citizens do not have a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide under U.S. law. The Court did make a distinction, however, between refusing or removing life-saving medical treatment (which can be allowed) and asking a physician to end a patient's life (which can not be allowed). This affords states, like Wisconsin, the option of distinguishing between the two acts.

Although states are permitted to have laws protecting a patient's right to die, very few have done so. Even in the states that have right-to-die laws, doctors are only allowed to provide lethal doses of certain drugs at their patients’ request, while patients themselves must control the act of self-administering the doses.

Wisconsin Euthanasia Laws: Related Resources

Euthanasia remains a heated topic of debate, and state statutes governing a person’s right to die are subject to change. You can visit FindLaw's Patient Rights section for additional articles and resources on this topic. You can also contact a Wisconsin health care attorney if you would like legal assistance regarding a terminal health care matter.

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