Bioethics News

Finland set to debate euthanasia

A citizen’s initiative to raise the issue of euthanasia in the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta) has passed the requisite 50,000 signatories required to trigger a parliamentary debate.

As in many countries, Finland has been dicing with euthanasia for some years now. The pro-euthanasia lobby, Exitus has been active since the early 1990s. As in many countries, the notional public support for euthanasia is above the two-thirds mark. Support amongst the nations doctors has also been steadily increasing in recent years with support and oppose numbers in the medical profession both at 46% in 2014.

As with all Finnish Citizen’s Initiatives, the ‘Euthanasia initiative on behalf of a good death’ includes a prescription of the form of the Bill to be debated. The presented model is for euthanasia for people experiencing an ‘incurable fatal disease, and death takes place in the near future’. The registered signatories now exceed 62000 which should ensure that, after exclusion checks, that a formal bill is developed and that the parliament is compelled to move to a vote.

The sponsor for the initiative is former Finnish MP, Esko Olavi Seppänen. Seppänen, a member of the Left Alliance Party and earlier the Finnish Communist Party, he was also a Member of the European Parliament from 1996 to 2009 as a Member of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL).

The Finnish Medical Association remains opposed to the initiative. Association head Heikki Palve said that the majority of palliative care doctors working with dying patients object to legalising euthanasia. A 2010 survey of doctors attitudes found that, in their opinion, more training on palliative care would diminish requests for active euthanasia and improve physicians’ skills in dealing with the difficult challenges faced in end-of-life situations and care.

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.