2020 Georgia Code
Title 16 - Crimes and Offenses
Chapter 5 - Crimes Against the Person
Article 1 - Homicide
§ 16-5-5. Assisted Suicide; Notification of Licensing Board Regarding Violation

Universal Citation: GA Code § 16-5-5 (2020)
  1. As used in this Code section, the term:
    1. "Assists" means the act of physically helping or physically providing the means.
    2. "Health care provider" means any person licensed, certified, or registered under Chapter 9, 10A, 11, 11A, 26, 28, 30, 33, 34, 35, 39, or 44 of Title 43.
    3. "Suicide" means the intentional and willful termination of one's own life.
  2. Any person with actual knowledge that a person intends to commit suicide who knowingly and willfully assists such person in the commission of such person's suicide shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years.
  3. The provisions of this Code section shall not apply to:
    1. Pursuant to a patient's consent, any person prescribing, dispensing, or administering medications or medical procedures when such actions are calculated or intended to relieve or prevent such patient's pain or discomfort but are not calculated or intended to cause such patient's death, even if the medication or medical procedure may have the effect of hastening or increasing the risk of death;
    2. Pursuant to a patient's consent, any person discontinuing, withholding, or withdrawing medications, medical procedures, nourishment, or hydration;
    3. Any person prescribing, dispensing, or administering medications or medical procedures pursuant to, without limitation, a living will, a durable power of attorney for health care, an advance directive for health care, a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment form pursuant to Code Section 31-1-14, or a consent pursuant to Code Section 29-4-18 or 31-9-2 when such actions are calculated or intended to relieve or prevent a patient's pain or discomfort but are not calculated or intended to cause such patient's death, even if the medication or medical procedure may have the effect of hastening or increasing the risk of death;
    4. Any person discontinuing, withholding, or withdrawing medications, medical procedures, nourishment, or hydration pursuant to, without limitation, a living will, a durable power of attorney for health care, an advance directive for health care, a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment form pursuant to Code Section 31-1-14, a consent pursuant to Code Section 29-4-18 or 31-9-2, or a written order not to resuscitate; or
    5. Any person advocating on behalf of a patient in accordance with this subsection.
  4. Within ten days of a conviction, a health care provider who is convicted of violating this Code section shall notify in writing the applicable licensing board for his or her licensure, certification, registration, or other authorization to conduct such health care provider's occupation. Upon being notified and notwithstanding any law, rule, or regulation to the contrary, the appropriate licensing board shall revoke the license, certification, registration, or other authorization to conduct such health care provider's occupation.

(Code 1981, §16-5-5, enacted by Ga. L. 2012, p. 637, § 1/HB 1114; Ga. L. 2015, p. 305, § 3/SB 109.)

Cross references.

- Notification of licensing boards of judgments against health care provider, § 51-4-6.

Editor's notes.

- Ga. L. 2007, p. 133, § 1/HB 24, not codified by the General Assembly, provides: "(a) The General Assembly has long recognized the right of the individual to control all aspects of his or her personal care and medical treatment, including the right to insist upon medical treatment, decline medical treatment, or direct that medical treatment be withdrawn. In order to secure these rights, the General Assembly has adopted and amended statutes recognizing the living will and health care agency and provided statutory forms for both documents.

"(b) The General Assembly has determined that the statutory forms for the living will and durable power of attorney for health care are confusing and inconsistent and that the statutes providing for the living will and health care agency contain conflicting concepts, inconsistent and out-of-date terminology, and confusing and inconsistent requirements for execution. In addition, there is a commendable trend among the states to combine the concepts of the living will and health care agency into a single legal document.

"(c) The General Assembly recognizes that a significant number of individuals representing the academic, medical, legislative, and legal communities, state officials, ethics scholars, and advocacy groups worked together to develop the advance directive for health care contained in this Act, and the collective intent was to create a form that uses understandable and everyday language in order to encourage more citizens of this state to execute advance directives for health care.

"(d) The General Assembly finds that the clear expression of an individual's decisions regarding health care, whether made by the individual or an agent appointed by the individual, is of critical importance not only to citizens but also to the health care and legal communities, third parties, and families. In furtherance of these purposes, the General Assembly enacts a new Chapter 32 of Title 31, setting forth general principles governing the expression of decisions regarding health care and the appointment of a health care agent, as well as a form of advance directive for health care."

Former Code Section 16-5-5, concerning offering to assist in commission of suicide and criminal penalties therefor, was based on Ga. L. 1994, p. 1370, § 1; Ga. L. 2007, p. 133, § 5/HB 24 and was repealed by Ga. L. 2012, p. 637, § 1/HB 1114, effective May 1, 2012.

Ga. L. 2012, p. 637, § 4/HB 1114, not codified by the General Assembly, provides that: "This Act shall not apply to any offense committed before the effective date of this Act." This Act became effective May 1, 2012.

Law reviews.

- For article, "Death Penalty Law," see 53 Mercer L. Rev. 233 (2001). For article, "Medical Decision-Making in Georgia," see 10 Ga. St. B. J. 50 (No. 7, 2005). For article, "Looking for a Way Out: How to Escape the Assisted Suicide Law in England," see 24 Emory Int'l L. Rev. 697 (2010). For article on the 2012 enactment of this Code section, see 29 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 278 (2012). For annual survey on criminal law, see 64 Mercer L. Rev. 83 (2012). For note on the 1994 enactment of this Code section, see 11 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 103 (1994). For note, "Compassion in Dying v. Washington: A Resolution to the 'Jurisprudence of Doubt' Enshrouding Physician-Assisted Suicide?," see 47 Mercer L. Rev. 1145 (1996). For note, "People v. Kevorkian: Michigan's Supreme Court Leads the Way in Declaring No Fundamental Right to Assist Another in Suicide," see 47 Mercer L. Rev. 1191 (1996).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

Editor's notes.

- In light of the similarity of the statutory provisions, decisions under former O.C.G.A. § 16-5-5 are included in the annotations for this Code section.

O.C.G.A.

§ 16-5-5(b) unconstitutional. - Former O.C.G.A. § 16-5-5(b) was unconstitutional under the free speech provisions of the United States and Georgia Constitutions, U.S. Const., amend. 1 and Ga. Const. 1983, Art. I, Sec. I, Para. V, because it was not all assisted suicides that were criminalized but only those that include a public advertisement or offer to assist; because the state failed to provide any explanation or evidence as to why a public advertisement or offer to assist in an otherwise legal activity was sufficiently problematic to justify an intrusion on protected speech rights, it could not, consistent with the United States and Georgia Constitutions, make the public advertisement or offer to assist in a suicide a criminal offense. Final Exit Network, Inc. v. State, 290 Ga. 508, 722 S.E.2d 722 (2012) (decided under former O.C.G.A. § 16-5-5).

Execution of defendant was not assisted suicide.

- Fact that the defendant agreed with the jury's determination that defendant's crimes deserved death did not mean that defendant's execution would constitute assisted suicide. Colwell v. State, 273 Ga. 634, 544 S.E.2d 120 (2001), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 972, 122 S. Ct. 394, 151 L. Ed. 2d 298 (2001) (decided under former O.C.G.A. § 16-5-5).

RESEARCH REFERENCES

ALR.

- Validity of criminalization of urging or assisting suicide under state statutes and common law, 96 A.L.R.6th 475.

ARTICLE 2 ASSAULT AND BATTERY

Cross references.

- Battery, assault, stalking, etc., involving family members, § 19-13-1 et seq.

Law reviews.

- For comment, "The Limits of the Neighborhood Justice Center: Why Domestic Violence Cases Should Not Be Mediated," see 34 Emory L.J. 855 (1985).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

Cited in Giles v. State, 143 Ga. App. 558, 239 S.E.2d 168 (1977).

RESEARCH REFERENCES

Assault and Battery, 1 POF3d 613.

Damages for Sexual Assault, 15 POF3d 259.

ALR.

- Danger or apparent danger of death or great bodily harm as condition of self-defense in prosecution for assault as distinguished from prosecution for homicide, 114 A.L.R. 634.

Indecent proposal to woman as assault, 12 A.L.R.2d 971.

Assault: criminal liability as barring or mitigating recovery of punitive damages, 98 A.L.R.3d 870.

Constitutionality of assault and battery laws limited to protection of females only or which provide greater penalties for males than for females, 5 A.L.R.4th 708.

Liability of governmental unit for intentional assault by employee other than police officer, 17 A.L.R.4th 881.

Liability of hotel or motel operator for injury to guest resulting from assault by third party, 28 A.L.R.4th 80.

Provocation as basis for mitigation of compensatory damages in action for assault and battery, 35 A.L.R.4th 947.

Liability for injury to martial arts participant, 47 A.L.R.4th 403.

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