There may not be any more controversial concepts or laws than those regarding euthanasia and assisted suicide. Assisted suicide is when a doctor prescribes lethal drugs to a patient but the patient is responsible themselves for administering them. Euthanasia is when a physician intentionally administers a lethal dose of drugs to a patient in order to end their life. Both have the same noble goal in mind; to end the suffering of a patient, but both the public, and the law have wildly differing opinions on the practices.
There are arguments on both sides of the debate that make strong claims in favor of their respective positions. Those in favor of assisted suicide and euthanasia argue that no one should live with a terminal illness, waiting to die in unbearable pain with no cure or hope. Proponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia argue that the patient should have the legal right to end their life however they see fit, and if that means with the assistance of a medical professional, so be it. Opponents of euthanasia argue that by legalizing the practice, we are disrespecting the sanctity of life. Often religion plays a role in the opinions of those against euthanasia, but not always.
While in most countries assisted suicide and euthanasia remain illegal, some nations are in the process of debating and adopting assisted suicide laws, or have already legalized assisted suicide, while three European nations have outright legalized euthanasia. Here are ten of those nations.
Japan has no official policy, or laws for that matter, regarding euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide. There have been cases of both passive and active euthanasia in Japan that have been brought before the courts and had contradictory rulings. De facto assisted suicide generally doesn’t end up in court, but euthanasia has remained a far murkier debate. As such, the Japanese government has finally created a legal outline dictating the appropriate criteria for both passive and active euthanasia to become legal:
“In the case of passive euthanasia, three conditions must be met:
1) The patient must be suffering from an incurable disease, and in the final stages of the disease from which he/she is unlikely to make a recovery.
2) The patient must give express consent to stopping treatment, and this consent must be obtained and preserved prior to death. If the patient is not able to give clear consent, their consent may be determined from a pre-written document such as a living will or the testimony of the family.
3) The patient may be passively euthanized by stopping medical treatment, chemotherapy, dialysis, artificial respiration, blood transfusion, IV drip, etc.
For active euthanasia, four conditions must be met:
1) The patient must be suffering from unbearable physical pain.
2) Death must be inevitable and drawing near.
3) The patient must give consent. (Unlike passive euthanasia, living wills and family consent will not suffice.)
4) The physician must have (ineffectively) exhausted all other measures of pain relief.”
6 United States
The first country in the world to legalize euthanasia, the Netherlands formally passed the law in 2002, though the practice of euthanasia had been tolerated in certain cases since the 1970s. Though anyone 12 years of age or older can request euthanasia, the requirements for euthanasia are very strict in the Netherlands, and only apply to patients with a terminal condition who are living in unbearable suffering. Furthermore, the patient must be in full control of their mental faculties when they request euthanasia. A second doctor also judges each case before the procedure is undertaken. After the death of the patient, a committee consisting of a doctor, a medical ethics expert and an expert in law review the case.
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