Death With Dignity in North Dakota

In 2021, North Dakota failed to pass an aid-in-dying law that would have allowed terminally ill patients to request life-ending medication.

In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of states considering death with dignity laws. Sometimes called "medical aid in dying," "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.

North Dakota's 2021 Death With Dignity Bill

Spurred by Maynard's decision and the passage of aid-in-dying laws in other states since that time, North Dakota lawmakers considered a death with dignity bill for the first time in 2021. However, the bill, H.B. 1415, failed to advance out of the state house of representatives. If it had passed, the law would have functioned very much like Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, allowing terminally ill patients who met certain requirements to request and use life-ending medication.

North Dakota's Ban on Assisted Suicide

Before 2021, North Dakota has never officially considered adopting a medical aid in dying law. The state has, in fact, taken an opposing path, declaring it a crime for "any person" to knowingly prescribe medication intended to cause death. (North Dakota Century Code § 12.1-16-04 (2024).) (The proposed bill, however, would have made exceptions for physicians who prescribe aid-in-dying medication under the death with dignity law. (See HB1415, Section 23-06.7-13.)

Advocating for a Medical Aid in Dying Act in North Dakota

If choice at the end of life is important to you, there are many things you can do to support bringing a Death With Dignity Act to North Dakota:

  • Contact your representatives in the state legislature and encourage them to support medical aid in dying.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Tell your family, friends, health care providers, and others why you believe terminally ill patients should be allowed to choose aid in dying.
  • Search for—or start—a community advocacy group. The Compassion & Choices website can help you connect with others in your area.

Making a Living Will or Advance Directive

"Death with dignity" and "medical aid in dying" are two of the most commonly accepted phrases describing the process by which a terminally ill person ingests prescribed medication to hasten death. You may also see the phrase "right to die" used in place of either of these terms. However, "right to die" is more accurately used in the context of directing one's own medical care—that is, refusing life-sustaining treatment such as a respirator or feeding tubes when permanently unconscious or close to death. In North Dakota or any other state, you have a right to provide such directions or give any other health care instructions by completing an advance health care directive. 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

Learn More

To find out more about the history and current status of aid-in-dying laws in the United States, visit the website of the Death With Dignity National Center.

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