Medical aid in dying (MAID) is also called medical assistance in dying, physician-assisted suicide (PAS), physician-assisted death/dying (PAD), and self-determination in dying. The New York State Bar Association defined MAID as “when a terminally ill, mentally competent adult patient, who is likely to die within six months, takes prescribed medicines, which must be self-administered, to end suffering and achieve a peaceful death.”
MAID differs from euthanasia, which is when a healthcare provider administers a fatal drug, and from passive euthanasia, which is when artificial life support is withheld or stopped (such as feeding tubes and ventilators). Euthanasia is illegal in the United States but legal in some countries, including Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Spain.
As of January 2023, MAID is legal in 10 US states and DC as well as several countries around the world, including Austria, Canada, and Finland. In the United States, the laws are frequently referred to as Death with Dignity laws. Oregon originated the phrase with the state statute legalizing MAID in Oct. 1997, the first in the US and the law most subsequent American laws and bills have been modeled upon.
Some 30 US states have considered legalizing MAID beyond the 10 states and DC in which the practice is now legal. At least 11 states actively considered legalization legislation in the 2021-2022 legislative session. Nine states have never actively considered MAID legislation and at least three of those states passed legislation to make the specific practice illegal (versus classifying it broadly as homicide).
The American Medical Association (AMA), American College of Physicians, and World Medical Association are officially opposed to the practice. The AMA stated that MAID is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.” However, at least 10 state chapters of the AMA, primarily in states where MAID is legal, have dropped opposition to the practice.
On the other hand, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Legal Medicine, and the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) support the legalization of MAID. The AMWA says it “supports the right of mentally capable terminally ill patients to advance the time of death that might otherwise be a protracted, undignified, or extremely painful death.”
Other medical organizations, including the British Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association, have adopted a neutral stance on MAID.
A 2018 Gallup poll found “65% of Americans think doctors should be legally allowed to assist a patient in dying by suicide” and 30% oppose legal MAID. 54% of respondents stated the practice was “morally acceptable,” while 42% believe MAID is “morally wrong.”
For more on the history of medical aid in dying, see ProCon’s History of Medical Aid in Dying timeline.