The ethical and legal aspects of euthanasia and assisted suicide continue to be the subject of active controversy. Some countries have recently legalised these practices, while others are in the process of doing so. It therefore seems of interest to review this topic, which has been done in a thought-provoking study published in JAMA (see HERE).
The practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide is currently legalised in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Colombia and Canada. Assisted suicide, excluding euthanasia, is legal in 5 North American states (Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and California) and Switzerland.
Public support for euthanasia and assisted suicide in the United States ranges between 47% and 67%. Although this support is increasing in Western Europe, it is declining in Central and Eastern Europe. In the United States, less than 20% of physicians have received requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide, and less than 5% have carried it out. In Oregon and Washington, less than 1% per year have prescribed medication for assisted suicide. In the Netherlands and Belgium, approximately half of doctors have received requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide. Between 0.3% and 4.6% of deaths have been a result of these practices in countries where they are legal; these figures were found to have increased after legalisation. More than 70% of cases were requested by patients with cancer. Pain is mostly not the main reason for requesting both practices. The authors concluded that euthanasia and assisted suicide are increasingly being legalised, that their practice is very limited, and that they principally involve patients with cancer.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.