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Virginia Euthanasia Laws

Virginia Euthanasia Laws at a Glance

Euthanasia, or "mercy killing," is strictly prohibited in Virginia, as it is in most other states. Only Washington and Oregon allow physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill or otherwise suffering individuals who wish to end their lives. But in Virginia, the withdrawal of life-support systems (such as respirators and feeding tubes) is not considered an act of euthanasia (which in Virginia is charged as "aiding suicide").

Charges and Penalties for Causing or Aiding Suicide in Pennsylvania

Even in cases where an individual claims to be acting in the best interests of another -- typically, a terminally ill person who no longer wants to live -- helping someone commit suicide is a criminal offense. If the act results in an  attempted or actual suicide, it is charged as a second degree felony and punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Any assistance that stops short of an actual attempt is charged as a second degree misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to two years in prison.

The Euthanasia Debate: A Brief Summary

Nearly every state prohibits euthanasia, a highly controversial subject that is often linked to the abortion debate. Supporters of physician-assisted suicide believe the choice to end one's own life to end a chronic or terminal illness is an essential human right. Those opposed to euthanasia argue that medical professionals have a duty to protect life and that assisting suicide violates this duty. The euthanasia issue became a national debate when Dr. Jack Kevorkian created ways to help patients humanely end their lives.

The basics of Virginia law with respect to euthanasia and related matters are listed below. See Details on State Euthanasia Laws for more information.

Code Section §§54.1-2990, 2991
Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes? Mercy killing or euthanasia is not condoned, approved, or authorized by Virginia law, nor is any affirmative or deliberate act or omission other than to allow the natural process of dying permitted.
Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures Acting in accordance with Health Care Decisions Act in withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging procedures does not constitute suicide.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Virginia health care attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Virginia Euthanasia Laws: Related Resources

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