Before telling where euthanasia is legal, let me first tell you what do you mean by euthanasia? I know many people would know it, but still there are some people who might not know about it. Euthanasia is a practice of ending the life of a person intentionally, so that he or she gets relieve from the pain or suffering of his or her terminal illness. For instance, if a doctor gives his patient who is suffering from a fatal disease, like cancer, an overdose of medicines that would cease the life of the patient, then this is euthanasia.
However, if you deliberately encourage or help a person in committing suicide, then this would be considered as an assisted suicide. For example, if a person acquires powerful sedatives for a person who is terminally ill and fully knows that these drugs would help the other person in his suicide attempts, then this would be called an assisted suicide.
Coming to the legality of euthanasia, it is not legal in every country. Let us look at the countries in which euthanasia is legal.
The countries in which euthanasia is legal
Euthanasia, which is also known as mercy killing, is legal is some countries. There has been several government policies related to the implementation of euthanasia in these countries.
Colombia legalized euthanasia on May 20th 2010, when the Colombian Constitutional Court said that a person with his doctor’s authorization can terminate his or her life, if he or she is terminally. No person would be held criminally responsible in such a case. The Colombian law defines a terminally ill person as someone who has a disease, like AIDS, liver failure, kidney failure, cancer, or any other kind of terminal condition where the patient has to go through extreme pain or suffering. However, Colombia does not authorize patients who are suffering from degenerative diseases, like Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease, to end their lives intentionally, as per the country’s euthanasia laws.
One of the countries where euthanasia is legal is Belgium. Euthanasia is legalized in Belgium since September 2002. The law of Belgium states that euthanasia can be committed only when there are two doctors involved in the practice, along with a psychologist, in case the patient’s competency is doubtful. In this decision of taking the life of the patient, both the doctor as well as his patient plays an equal part. They decide which course of action would be the best and how it can be taken. It can be done through a lethal injection or prescribed overdose.
India is one of the other countries where euthanasia is legal. But, the law authorizes only passive euthanasia and not active euthanasia. The euthanasia law was passed in 2011 by the Supreme Court of India. It stated that patients who are in a permanent passive or vegetative state can withdraw their life support legally, but they cannot end their live using lethal compounds, which is a form of active euthanasia and that is illegal.
When Luxembourg legalized euthanasia, it was the third country in the European Union (EU). Luxembourg passed the law of euthanasia in a parliamentary bill, according to which doctors can end the life of a patient who is terminally ill. However, the law also states that the decision of euthanasia will be accepted only after the approval of a board of two doctors and experts.
Ireland permits patients who are suffering from terminal illness to withdraw their life support or any other type of treatment, if the patient himself or his close relative asks for it. However, active euthanasia is still illegal in the country. According to the Irish Times poll, almost 57% of adults are in the favor of legalization of a doctor assisted suicide, if the patient asks for it.
The euthanasia law in Netherlands was passed in 2002, though it was permitted by the country’s courts since the 1980s. The country permits both doctor assisted suicide as well as euthanasia. In Netherlands, doctors are usually not compelled to restrain the lives of their patients, who want to die themselves.
The euthanasia law of Mexico allows passive euthanasia and not active euthanasia. Active euthanasia is still illegal in this country. This means that the unconscious patient himself or his or her close relatives can refuse further treatment of the terminal disease of the patient. The law which was passed in 2008 also saw a similar law with some extended provisions to decriminalize active euthanasia, but the latter one is still pending approval.
You may be wondering about the legality of euthanasia in America. In the United States, euthanasia is legal in some of the states, including Washington, Oregon, Vermont, and Montana.
- Washington is the second state that legalized euthanasia in 2008 after Oregon. The euthanasia law was passed in Washington with the Dignity Act through Washington Death. The law is quite similar to the Oregon euthanasia law, where the patient has to make two oral requests, along with a written request. Also, the patient should be terminally ill with six months or lesser period of life expectancy and the requests should be 15 days apart.
- Oregon was the first state of the United States that legalized euthanasia under the Death With Dignity (DWD) Act, which was put into practice in 1997. According to it, patients who are suffering from a terminal condition or hopeless illness can request for lethal medications. For this, such patients should make one written request and two oral requests to end their life in the presence of a witness and doctors. Moreover, two doctors must agree on the prognosis as well as the diagnosis of the patient’s terminal disease and his or her capability. The patient must also personally oversee the medication.
- The euthanasia law was passed in Vermont only recently on 20 May, 2013. Euthanasia was legalized in this American state through the 39th act of the End of Life Choices. According to this law, the patient must provide one written request and two oral requests, only then he or she would be permitted to take euthanasia legally.
- Montana legalized euthanasia in December 2009 through the Baxter v. Montana dubbed case in the Montana First Judicial District Court. According to the ruling, a competent patient can die with dignity by taking the prescribed lethal medication with the assistance of the physician.
However, along with these requirements, it is important that the patient must also be a resident of all the above mentioned American states, so that he or she can practice euthanasia.