2022 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 (2022)
  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 psychiatric advance directive, 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 psychiatric advance directive, 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.

History. Code 1981, § 16-5-5 , enacted by Ga. L. 2012, p. 637, § 1/HB 1114; Ga. L. 2015, p. 305, § 3/SB 109; Ga. L. 2022, p. 611, § 2-2/HB 752.

Effective date. —

This Code section became effective May 1, 2012.

The 2022 amendment, effective July 1, 2022, inserted “a psychiatric advance directive,” in paragraphs (c)(3) and (c)(4).

Cross references.

Psychiatric advance directives, § 37-11-1 et seq.

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 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).

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).

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