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New York Euthanasia Laws

Euthanasia, or "mercy killing," is the act of taking someone's life who no longer wishes to live, typically because they have a terminal illness or some other debilitating condition. Euthanasia is illegal in all fifty states.

It should be noted that euthanasia differs from physician-assisted suicide. In instances of physician-assisted suicide, the doctor generally prescribes life-ending medication, but the patient administers the medication himself or herself -- compared to euthanasia where the physician (or other third party) administers the lethal dose of medication for the patient. Only five states -- Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, Montana, and Washington -- currently allow physician-assisted suicide.

In New York, euthanasia is treated as a crime. If found guilty of manslaughter, an individual may be charged with second degree manslaughter. In addition, a section of the Public Health Law broadly demonstrates the state’s policy towards euthanasia, specifying that the statute is not intended to promote or permit suicide, assisted suicide, or euthanasia.

While euthanasia and assisted suicide are largely illegal throughout the U.S., many states, including New York, do allow the withdrawal of life-sustaining machines or procedures. “Life-sustaining” in this context, refers to treatments, medication, and/or procedures that take over (or prompt the revival of) the operation of vital organs or bodily functions.

The basics of New York euthanasia-related laws are listed in the table below. See FindLaw's Patient Rights Basics for more related articles and resources.

Code Section

Pub. Health Law §2989

Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes?

Statute not intended to promote or permit suicide, assisted suicide, or euthanasia; nor to be construed to permit agent to consent to any act or omission to which the principal could not consent under law.

Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures

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Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a New York estate planning 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 New York, 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.

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