Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of states considering aid-in-dying laws. Often called “death with dignity,” “assisted suicide,” or “right to die” initiatives, these laws make it possible for terminally ill patients to use prescribed medication to end their lives peacefully rather than suffering a painful and protracted death.
The catalyst for greater national attention to this issue was 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, a woman diagnosed with terminal brain cancer who moved from California to Oregon to end her life in 2014. Maynard chose Oregon because California had not yet passed its aid-in-dying law, and Oregon is one of just a few other states to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives.
South Carolina has never officially considered adopting an aid-in-dying law. The state has, in fact, taken an opposing path, declaring that any health care professional convicted of assisted suicide may have his or her license to practice suspended or revoked. (See South Carolina Code § 16-3-1090.)
If choice at the end of life is important to you, there are many things you can do to support bringing an aid-in-dying law to South Carolina:
“Aid in dying” is one of the most commonly accepted phrases describing the process by which a terminally ill person ingests prescribed medication to hasten death. Another common term is “death with dignity.” However, in South Carolina “death with dignity” has a very different meaning. The state’s Death With Dignity Act (South Carolina Code § 44-77-10 and following) allows you to direct your own medical care by making a living will. You can use a living will to specify that, if you are close to death or permanently unconscious, you do not wish to receive life-sustaining treatments such as a respirator, feeding tubes, or CPR. Health care providers are required to honor your wishes or transfer you to another care provider who will do so.
For information about making known your wishes for medical care at the end of life and appointing a trusted person to ensure your instructions are carried out, see the Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney section of Nolo.com.
To find out more about the history and current status of death with dignity laws in the United States, visit the website of the Death With Dignity National Center.