Euthanasia is one of the controversial and widely contested issues in legal circles across the world. The United States is not an exception, as many state governments have made numerous efforts to develop effective policies and legislation geared towards addressing the issue. Mercy killing or the act of painlessly killing someone, especially if they are suffering from an incurable illness is divided opinions among human rights groups due to the numerous contrasting views it generates (Clark, 2014). Several legal parameters guide physician-assisted suicide in various states across the United States. For example, in Gonzalez v. Oregon case of 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the legislation in the state of Oregon that allowed physicians to prescribe a certain type of drugs to terminally ill patients who sought anesthesia. The state passed the Oregon Death with Dignity Act in 1994, which legalized physician-assisted suicide (Clark, 2014). The legislation sets the standards for physician-assisted suicide in the state. In another case, Washington v. Glucksberg of 1997, the Supreme Court passed that physician-assisted suicide was not supported by the state laws. The ruling made in the case attracted a lot of controversy about the interpretation of the right to die (Clark, 2014). However, it is important to note that even the states that legalize euthanasia have set some regulations about the conditions under which it is acceptable.
Physician-assisted suicide in Maryland
Maryland is one of the states that are yet to legalize physician-assisted suicide. First, it is important to note that the federal government holds that the constitution does not give the right to physician-assisted suicide as ruled in Washington v. Glucksberg (Clark, 2014). One of the most notable elements of laws in Maryland about this concept is how it is interpreted. The state has criminalized any acts of deliberate mercy killings, which involve premeditated acts. However, the state allows a physician to withhold or remove efforts geared towards sustaining the life of a patient.
Physicians in Maryland are not allowed to proactively, assist a patient to end their life, but rather have legal backing when it happens passively (Wiggins, 2016). Maryland has integrated this element within its laws. Further, the state laws allow members of the health care team to prescribe certain drugs at the patient’s request. In the recent past, proposals for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Maryland have failed to pass despite the highly publicized story of a woman who moved to Oregon in 2014 to procure assisted suicide after dealing with a terminal illness for a very long time (Wiggins, 2016). Surveys have also shown that Marylanders support the legalization of euthanasia.
Criminal laws regarding suicide
Several criminal laws apply in Maryland about assisted suicide. In the case of Bob Stanton and his wife, the state laws prohibit anyone from assisting another person to commit or attempt suicide knowingly. The laws also prohibit anyone from knowingly participating in a physical activity that someone else intends to use to end his or her life (Clark, 2014). It is also illegal for anyone to knowingly because of someone else committing suicide. According to the state laws, the penalty for all these violations once someone is convicted of a felony is a maximum jail term of one year or a fine of not more than $ 10,000 or both (Clark, 2014).
Effect of the laws on the right to privacy liberty and or the due process
Over the last couple of years, there has been a lot of enormous pressure mounting on the state of Maryland to legalize physician-assisted suicide. However, one of the most contentious issues about the legalization of the process is the effect that such laws have on the right of privacy liberty of the patient. Privacy is a very contentious issue in the delivery of health care (Clark, 2014). The state laws on assisted suicide have negative impacts on the privacy of a patient’s health information. The reason for this is the fact that a patient’s health status is often scrutinized to determine the eligibility of a request for assisted suicide (Wiggins, 2016). For example, situations where a doctor is allowed to prescribe a lethal dose to a terminally ill patient entail a thorough analysis of a patient’s health information and history to determine if they should be given the dosage. However, advocates for physician-assisted suicide argue that patients can’t maintain the privacy of their health information throughout the process, thus the need to be contented with the interference (Clark, 2014).
The debate on the according to patients the right to choose whether to end their lives has dragged on for several years. With states such as Oregon and California having already legalized euthanasia, many legal experts believe that Maryland is destined to be the next hotly contested battleground about the issue. The controversy surrounding the interpretation of this concept is not likely to end any time soon as evidenced in the Washington v. Glucksberg. The legal standards for physician-assisted suicide in Maryland will highly depend on the ruling made in the case, as well as on the laws that the state will create.
Clark, N. (2014). The Politics of Physician Assisted Suicide. New York: Routledge.
Wiggins, O. (2016). Effort to Legalize Assisted Suicide Fails again in Maryland. Web.