There are 11 : California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and District of Columbia.
Assisted suicide, also called physician-assisted suicide or medical aid in dying, allows someone to take their own life with someone else's assistance, usually a doctor. Assisted suicide occurs when someone helps a person with a terminal illness, such as cancer, take their own life to avoid suffering.
States with these laws make it legal for adults with terminal illnesses to receive prescription medication to assist in their death. Some conditions must be met
Assisted suicide is controversial because it raises questions surrounding ethics and religious beliefs. People who believe that suicide is a sin due to their religion, for example, may be against assisted suicide, even if the terminally ill patient faces extreme pain and suffering. Supporters of assisted suicide believe that it is up to the individual to decide their death, not the government or religious institutions and their ideologies.
In the United States, federal law allows states to make their own choices regarding assisted suicide. Because of its controversial nature, it comes as no surprise that assisted suicide is illegal in most states. However, assisted suicide is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia:
In these states, it is legal for terminally ill patients to receive lethal medication from their doctors. Additionally, in Montana, there is currently no death with dignity statute; however, the end-of-life option is legal through a State Supreme Court ruling. In New Mexico, a judge ruled that patients have to receive a lethal dose of medication if they are terminally ill.
Oregon was the first state to have a passed ballot measure to allow assisted suicide in 1997. New Mexico was the most recent to pass legislation in 2021.
In states that allow for assisted suicide, the requirements are similar. In all nine states and the District of Columbia, the patient must be at least eighteen years of age, a resident of the state, and have six months or fewer until their expected death.
Patients are also required to make multiple requests to their physician to go forward with the path of medical aid in dying. In most states, this requires two oral requests fifteen days apart and one written request. Oregon does not put a time requirement between the two oral requests and Hawaii requires 20 days between the two oral requests. New Mexico only requires the patient to complete one written request on a state-provided form.
Months until Expected Death
Physician Requests Required
|California||18||Six or less||Two oral (at least 15 days apart) and one written||Oct. 2015||June 2016||California End of Life Option Act||Legislature|
|Colorado||18||Six or less||Two oral (at least 15 days apart) and one written||Nov. 2016||Dec. 2016||Colorado End of Life Options Act||Ballot|
|District of Columbia||18||Six or less||Two oral (at least 15 days apart) and one written||Dec. 2016||Feb. 2017||D.C. Death With Dignity Act||Legislature|
|Hawaii||18||Six or less||Two oral (at least 20 days apart) and one written||Apr. 2018||Jan. 2019||Hawai‘i Our Care, Our Choice Act||Legislature|
|Maine||18||Six or less||Two oral (at least 20 days apart) and one written||June 2019||Sept. 2019||Maine Death With Dignity Act||Legislature|
|Montana||no legal protocol||no legal protocol||no legal protocol||Dec. 2009||Dec. 2009||Baxter V. Montana||Courts|
|New Jersey||18||Six or less||Two oral (at least 15 days apart) and one written||Apr. 2019||Aug. 2019||New Jersey Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act||Legislature|
|New Mexico||18||Six or less||One written request (state-provided form)||Apr. 2021||June 2021||New Mexico Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act||Legislature|
|Oregon||18||Six or less||Two oral and one written||Nov. 1994||Oct. 1997||Oregon Death with Dignity Act||Ballot|
|Vermont||18||Six or less||Two oral (at least 15 days apart) and one written||May 2013||May 2013||Vermont Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act||Legislature|
|Washington||18||Six or less||Two oral (at least 15 days apart) and one written||Nov. 2008||Mar. 2009||Washington Death with Dignity Act||Ballot|