What are the Rules in Maryland Concerning Assisted Suicide?
Often referred to euthanasia, assisted suicide is the act of helping another person intentionally take their own life. This is a controversial topic, especially for the elderly and people suffering from intractable pain. It might seem humane to help that person end their misery. The problem is that death is final. There is no way to reverse the decision to commit suicide after the fact. Consequently, assisted suicide is a crime in Maryland, punishable by severe fines and even jail time.
What is the Definition of Assisted Suicide?
As outlined in Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-102, it is unlawful to help another person commit suicide or attempt to commit suicide. Section 3-102 prohibits any person from knowingly:
- Causing another person to commit suicide by coercion, duress or deception;
- Providing the means to commit suicide to another person intent on carrying out the act; or
- Participating in another person’s physical act of committing suicide.
Are there Exceptions to the Assisted Suicide Rules?
As detailed in Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-103, there are several exceptions to the assisted suicide rules. Maryland law provides a certain amount of flexibility for licensed health care professionals and family caregivers who act in accordance with reasonable medical practice.
Before progressing any further, it will be helpful to review the definition of a licensed health care professional. Under Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-101, the term licensed health care professional includes properly licensed or certified:
- Osteopathic physicians;
- Osteopathic surgeons;
- Physician assistants;
- Registered nurses;
- Licensed practical nurses;
- Nurse practitioners;
- Pharmacists; and
- Emergency medical services providers.
Licensed health care professionals are allowed to prescribe medication or even withhold treatment — so long as they conform with recognized medical standards. This exception applies even if the treatment (or lack thereof) hastens death or increases the risk of death. However, this immunity disappears if the licensed health care professional knowingly acts with the intent to cause the death of the patient.
Similarly, family caregivers are allowed to administer or dispense medication that might increase the chance of death. These caregivers can gain immunity from assisted suicide rules if:
- The patient is in a licensed hospice program; and
- The caregiver acts under the direction of a licensed health care professional.
That being said, this immunity disappears if the family caregiver acts with the intention of causing the death of their family member.
What are the Penalties for Participating in Assisted Suicide?
As established in Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 3-104, assisted suicide is a felony crime. The Maryland penalties for this felony crime include imprisonment for up to one year and $10,000 in fines.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need legal help with an assisted suicide charge in Maryland, it can be exceedingly worthwhile to reach out to an accomplished criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered in Bel Air, Maryland, have more than 55 years of combined legal experience in criminal defense, including charges such as assisted suicide. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.