Local News

N.C. 1 Of 4 States With No Law On Assisted Suicide

Posted October 6, 2005 7:55 a.m. EDT

— Forty-five states in the nation have outlawed the practice of physician-assisted suicide, but the act is allowed in Oregon, where the federal government is fighting to keep doctors from taking part. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the matter.

Still, in four states, including North Carolina, there is no legislation regarding the matter. In 2003, some state lawmakers tried to outlaw assisted suicide, but the bill died before lawmakers had a chance to debate it in the General Assembly.

In North Carolina, suicide is legal, as is refusing life support. Euthanasia, however, is considered a crime. But if doctors give patients drugs to kill themselves, it is unclear, according to the state, whether they would face charges.

"I think we put our doctors in a tremendous disadvantage when they're there probably having to make decisions about this," said State Sen. Harris Blake (R-Moore/Harnett), who backed the 2003 legislation.

Fayetteville social worker Stacie Brown sees both sides of the issue every day at a Fayetteville hospice where she works.

"Nobody wants to see somebody that they love suffer," Brown said. "Sometimes the patient will hold on and hold on and hold on. They'll suffer because the family's not ready to let go."

Ohio, Utah and Wyoming are the three other states without a law on assisted suicide. As for when and if state lawmakers will bring up the matter again in the N.C. Legislature, Blake said he expects lawmakers will wait for the Supreme Court's ruling before deciding whether to sponsor another state bill.