Louisiana specifically labels helping someone commit suicide as a criminal act. Physicians, nurses or other caregivers may be vulnerable to accusations of criminal assistance of suicide if they administer lethal doses of medications to extremely ill people close to their times of death. Even an individual suffering an unbearable condition who expresses a wish to die cannot shield a caregiver from the possibility of prosecution.
How does physician-assisted suicide relate to homicide?
The term “homicide” encompasses any acts involving taking the life of another person. Intention determines the degree of criminal charges related to the homicide. Someone who purposefully ends someone’s life may be accused of homicide. However, an accident that leads to an unintentional death leads to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
When do doctors commit assistance of suicide?
Under state law, a doctor or anyone else who actually provides someone with the physical means to commit suicide has committed a crime. Additionally, explaining to someone how to commit suicide or encouraging the person to so also violates the law.
However, the same statute outlines some protection for physicians who care for people at the end of life. A physician may legally prescribe, dispense or administer medications for the purposes of pain relief as long as the physician is not doing so to bring an earlier death. Because this distinction may be unclear, a physician may run the risk of being charged with a homicide-related offense if other people misinterpret what happened.
Ongoing debate about physician-assisted suicide
Many people throughout the country support someone’s right to request medical help to end their lives when they are suffering without hope. Even so, current state law does not accept the legitimacy of merciful support for those who wish to die.