February 11, 2015 By Paul Wallin

If You Help a Loved One Die Peacefully, You Could Face the Chance of Going to Jail Under Penal Code 401 PC

So many families go through the trauma of watching as a loved one slowly dies from an excruciatingly painful disease.

Assisted Suicide crime under Penal Code 401
Engaging in assisted suicide is a felony act under Penal Code 401.

What if your loved one was begging you to help them end their life so they can pass with “dignity?” It would be so easy to help them end their suffering by providing them with some medication that would allow him or her to die quickly and end the pain, but would it be legal?

California law says no. According to California Penal Code 401, the “assisted suicide law,” if you give in to this very human temptation and “deliberately aid, advise, or encourage another to commit suicide,” you are in fact committing a felony offense. 1 You could go to jail for up to 3 years whether your efforts lead to your loved ones death or not. While this seems like a cruel and insensitive law, it is a law that must be obeyed if you wish to avoid serious criminal consequences.

Some people facing a dilemma similar to the above have decided to move to Oregon where assisted suicide is legal.

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act

Implemented in 1997, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act allows a competent Oregon resident 18 years or older who has been given six months or less to live by a physician (due to a terminal disease) to request a prescription for a lethal dose of medication. The request must be initiated by the patient and the patient must not have any mental condition that may impair his or her judgment. 2

Both Washington and Vermont have similar death with dignity laws in place as well.

Is Assisted Suicide Ethical?

Some people argue that the time in which a person dies should be left to medical science. Others believe the exact time of death should belong to God.

However, millions of times each year grieving families go through unforgettable suffering helplessly watching a terminally ill loved one go through pain. The family is often unable to alleviate the suffering but also know that they cannot take steps to speed up their loved one’s passing without facing criminal charges.

This is a legal dilemma that our elected officials must take steps to change. Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act is a good one. It allows those dying of a terminal illness to end their life with dignity at a time and place that they deem best for themselves and their loved ones.

For a more in-depth explanation of California’s assisted suicide laws, click here.

Wallin and Klarich believes strongly that California must change their law so families no longer have to endure the suffering that takes place every day watching a loved one who is slowly dying. We are, however, aware that there may be different views on this controversial issue. We welcome your thoughts so we can share them with all of our readers.

1. [http://euthanasia.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=5053]
2. [http://www.deathwithdignity.org/access-acts]

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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