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North Carolina Euthanasia Laws

Euthanasia, also called "mercy killing" or “physician-assisted suicide,” is the act of helping someone who is either terminally ill or in a great deal of pain end his or her life. Only a couple of states allow doctor-assisted suicide, but other states permit patients to die naturally in accordance with their stated wishes that are usually outlined in a living will. North Carolina euthanasia laws prohibit the practice of mercy killing, but let medical professionals withhold artificial life support under certain conditions when requested by a patient.

The main provisions of North Carolina euthanasia laws are listed in the chart below. Links with related articles and additional resources follow this article.

Code Sections

The following sections of the North Carolina General Statutes make up the state’s euthanasia laws:

  • 90-320(b): Right to Natural Death; Brain Death
  • 32A-24: Reliance on health care power of attorney; defense. 
Purpose of Section 90-320(b) Individuals have a right to a peaceful and natural death based on decisions relating to their medical care. This right includes a patient’s decision to withdraw or withhold life-sustaining measures when he or she has a terminal condition. The patient must express his or her wishes in a declaration. In most circumstances, the declaration takes the form of an Advanced Directive for a Natural Death (commonly known as a “living will").
Euthanasia Condoned in Statutes? No. Provisions in the statutes do not authorize any affirmative or deliberate act or omission to end life other than to permit natural process of dying.
Health Care Power of Attorney If a patient lacks the understanding or ability to make or communicate health care decisions, a health care agent (as designated by a health care power of attorney) may make decisions on behalf of the patient.
Effect of Withholding of Life-Sustaining Procedures Withholding life support and other life-prolonging measures based on the authorization of a health care agent is not considered suicide or cause of death for civil or criminal purposes.

It’s important to plan ahead regarding your health care to make sure that your wishes are respected in the unfortunate circumstance you are unable to communicate your desires. An experienced North Carolina health care attorney can explain your rights and help you draft a living will.

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North Carolina Euthanasia Laws: Related Resources

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