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Rhode Island Euthanasia Laws

Death is always a difficult topic to discuss, particularly when it involves close relatives or loved ones, but it is inevitable. Still, most state laws do not allow people expected to die from a terminal illness to get help ending their lives on their own terms. Despite some confusion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are two closely related but different things. Euthanasia occurs when someone actively takes another person's life, with their consent, as an act of mercy (which is illegal in all states). But a few states do allow physician-assisted suicide, in which terminally ill patients obtain lethal drugs to administer on their own terms, perhaps after saying final goodbyes.

But while assisted suicide is illegal in most states, terminally ill patients may forego life-preserving treatments such as feeding tubes if indicated in a living will. In these instances, the physicians and hospital staff are not held liable for the patient's death.

Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide in Rhode Island at a Glance

Rhode Island, like most states, does not permit physician-assisted suicide. Anyone who assists someone else's suicide, regardless of good intentions and patient consent, will be charged with a felony and serve up to 10 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Additional details of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia laws in Rhode Island are listed below.

Code Section 23-4.10-9; 23-4.11-10
Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes? Euthanasia or mercy killing is not condoned or authorized by Rhode Island law.
Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures Death resulting from withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining procedures does not constitute suicide or homicide.
Criminal Charge and Penalties for Assisted Suicide
Felony; punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000

Note: State laws are prone to frequent changes, usually through the enactment of new legislation but sometimes through decisions from higher courts or other means. You should contact a Rhode Island health care attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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