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Florida Euthanasia Laws

Florida has one of the largest elderly populations in the nation, making the issue of euthanasia, or "mercy killing," a relevant legal question. Euthanasia 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. While euthanasia is technically illegal in all states, some allow physician-assisted suicide.

Only one state -- Oregon -- currently allows physician-assisted suicide, but many states do allow the withdrawal of life-sustaining machines or procedures. In Florida, such laws are not on the books. But a section of the Florida statues does state that the withdrawing of life-prolonging procedures from a patient does not constitute a suicide.

The basics of Florida's euthanasia-related laws are listed in the table below, with an expanded summary below. See FindLaw's Patient Rights Basics for more related articles and resources.

Code Section 765.309
Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes? Nothing construed to condone, authorize, or approve mercy killing or euthanasia or to permit any affirmative or deliberate act or omission to end life other than to permit the natural process of dying.
Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures The withdrawing of life-prolonging procedures from a patient in accordance with any provision of this chapter does not for any purpose constitute a suicide.

What are the Applicable Florida Laws Regarding Euthanasia?

The laws governing advanced health care directives, including euthanasia, are found in Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes. The specific section regulating euthanasia is section 765.309.

What is an Advanced Health Care Directive?

An advanced health care directive is a written document or oral statement, properly witnessed by another person, which provides instructions concerning any aspect of a person’s health care. They can be particularly important to have in place if a patient later becomes too sick or disabled to express his or her wishes.

Is Euthanasia Condoned in Chapter 765?

No. Nothing in Chapter 765 should be interpreted to condone, authorize, or approve physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia or to permit any deliberate act or omission (failure to act) to end life, other than to allow the natural process of dying.

What is the Effect of Withholding Life-Sustaining Procedures?

A person may create a living will that directs medical professions to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging procedures in the event that person has a terminal illness or end-stage condition, or is in a persistent vegetative state. The withdrawing of life-prolonging procedures from a patient in accordance with any provision of Chapter 765 does not constitute a suicide.

As the population in the United States continues to age, assisted suicide remains a significant and hotly debated topic. State laws are constantly changing and it’s best to contact a legal professional if you have specific questions. An experienced estate planning attorney can discuss your situation with you and help you prepare an appropriate advanced health care directive. 

For more related articles and resources, check out the following links:

Questions About Florida Euthanasia Laws? An Attorney Can Help

More and more states are beginning to allow physician-assisted suicide for those who are terminally ill and wish to end their lives on their own terms, but Florida has not yet followed suit. However, you may have questions about withdrawing live-preserving support or other euthanasia-related matters. A Florida health care law attorney can help. 

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