Should Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide be Legal in the United States?

Health & Gender Policy Brief #137 | By: Inijah Quadri | July 18, 2022

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California was the first state to enact a “natural death law.” Legal principles in these laws acknowledged the rights of the terminally ill to refuse medical treatments and interventions. And because of the likelihood of impaired judgment at some point in the illness, individuals were allowed to make their wishes known through advance directives regarding care and through “living wills.”

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Policy Summary

The debate surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide in the United States is a complicated one. On one side of the argument are those who believe that people have a right to die with dignity, and that euthanasia and assisted suicide should be legal options for individuals who are terminally ill or suffering from a debilitating condition. On the other side of the argument are those who believe that euthanasia and assisted suicide are immoral, and that they should not be legal options for anyone.

This debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide has been going on for many years, and there is no clear consensus on which side is right. Supporters of euthanasia and assisted suicide argue that these procedures provide a way for people to die with dignity, while opponents argue that they are unethical and can be abused. They also argue that legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide would lead to an increase in suicide rates, as those with mental health issues or who are struggling with unbearable pain may feel pressured to take their own lives.

Policy Analysis

The history of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the United States is a long and complicated one. Euthanasia and assisted suicide used to be illegal in the United States, until the US drafted the Natural Death Act of 1979. First implemented by California, the Act, now adopted by all the US states, allows for a natural death in specific circumstances.

For example, the law allows people with terminal illnesses to forgo life-saving medical treatments, including artificial nutrition and hydration, in order to die peacefully. The law also allows people with chronic illnesses to make decisions about their end-of-life care in advance, in case they become unable to make decisions for themselves.

In 1997, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of physician-assisted suicide in the case of Washington v. Glucksberg. This landmark decision upheld the right to die as a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Constitution. Since then, assisted suicide has been legal in several US states, including Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Despite these precedents, euthanasia and assisted suicide remain controversial topics. Many opponents argue that these practices can be abused and that they put vulnerable people at risk. Others maintain that individuals have a right to choose how they die and that assisted suicide should be available to all who want it.

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The debate over the legal, ethical and political implications of death and dying is not new. But the modernization of health care in the 20th century dramatically changed the character of death and dying, and has cast this old debate in a different light.

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The debate over euthanasia and assisted suicide is likely to continue for some time.

Outside the United States, the legality of euthanasia and assisted suicide vary from country to country. In some places, both practices are legal, while in others, only euthanasia is legal. In the majority of countries, however, euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal. There are a number of reasons for this variation in legality. One reason is that the definition of euthanasia and assisted suicide can differ from country to country. Another reason is that public opinion on euthanasia and assisted suicide can vary dramatically from country to country.


In conclusion, many people, especially those suffering from terminal conditions, feel that euthanasia and assisted suicide should be legal in the United States. We agree with this sentiment for a few reasons. First, people should be able to make their own decisions about their lives and death. Second, many people who are suffering should be able to choose euthanasia or assisted suicide to avoid a long, painful death. Finally, these procedures are often much less expensive than keeping a person alive in a hospital setting, and as such, should be legalized in all US States.

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