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New at FindLaw: Which States Have 'Death With Dignity' Laws?

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on November 06, 2014 11:00 AM

Death with dignity laws address a sensitive topic for Americans: the ability to choose a medically prescribed method for ending one's own life.

Putting a finer point on it, Brittany Maynard, a woman who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, chose to end her own life under Oregon's Death With Dignity Act. CNN reports that Maynard passed away Saturday, dying "peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones." Many are still divided on the issue of medically assisted suicide, but states like Oregon have passed laws allowing patients like Maynard to choose to die on their own terms.

So which states have "Death With Dignity" laws similar to Oregon's? Look no further than FindLaw.com's section on Health Care Law, where we unveiled some new content this week.

Death With Dignity, State by State

FindLaw's new page on "Death With Dignity" Laws by State covers the five states with such laws on the books: Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Maynard took advantage of Oregon's laws, which have been in place for over two decades, in choosing her own final days.

In addition to providing a brief history of each state's "Death With Dignity" law, the new page explains the legal underpinnings for each state's stance of assisting suicide. Readers may be interested to know that Montana and New Mexico did not directly legislate the issue of euthanasia; rather, the road to legally assisted suicide was paved by the courts in those states.

The new page also provides the key provisions of each state's "Death With Dignity" law or legal ruling, including waiting periods and the requirements for oral requests.

Though the subject may be unpleasant to some, to terminally ill patients, these details may mean avoiding years of pain and suffering.

Still No Constitutional Right

FindLaw's Law and Daily Life blogged about Brittany Maynard moving to Oregon in order to spend her final days, largely because there is no constitutionally recognized right to assisted suicide. The five states covered by FindLaw's new page are currently the only places in America which there is a recognized legal path to euthanasia.

As more states ponder similar laws, perhaps the issue will once again reach the Supreme Court. But for now, "Death With Dignity" laws occupy a very small universe, which FindLaw readers can now explore in depth.

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