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Countries That Have Legalised Euthanasia

Countries That Have Legalised Euthanasia


The Supreme Court of India recently issued notices to all states and union territories on a plea to legalise voluntary passive euthanasia. Passive euthanasia, or assisted suicide as it is sometimes called, is already legalised in India under “exceptional circumstances” since 2011. It is the voluntary passive euthanasia that has been a much-debated topic for the last few days.


Voluntary passive euthanasia is a state where an individual can decide how much medicine, drugs and life-support systems their bodies are willing to put up with if and when they are in vulnerable positions. Boomnews looks at some countries where euthanasia, both active and passive, is legal.

Australia’s northern territory became the first place in the world to legalise euthanasia. A private member’s bill, Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill 1995, became law on 25 May, 1995, and was assented to on 16 June, 1995. It permitted active euthanasia, under careful controls, when certain prerequisites were met. The law was opposed by the Australian Medical Association and a variety of right-to-life groups.



One of the first European nations to legalise euthanasia, passive euthanasia was introduced in Albania in 1999. Albania’seuthanasia policy was highly controversial and was heavily criticised by the Catholic Church. However, due to other more prominent countries also legalising different forms of euthanasia, Albanians have taken a more relaxed attitude now.



Belgium became the first country in the world to allow terminally ill children of any age the right to die by euthanasia. The law allows doctors to assist suicide of a child with their own consent along with their parents if the disease is diagnosed to be incurable. The children must be assessed by a psychologist and be “capable of discernment.”



A country where nothing is illegal. In 2002, Netherlands legalised euthanasia including physician-assisted suicide. The law codified a twenty year old convention of not persecuting doctors who have committed euthanasia in very specific cases under very specific circumstances. The Dutch laid out narrow guidelines for doctors. The patient, who must be suffering unbearably, and have no hope of improvement, must ask to die. The patient must clearly understand the condition and prognosis and a second doctor must agree with the decision to help the patient die.


United States

Active euthanasia is illegal in some of the part of United States. Patients retain the rights to refuse medical treatment and to receive appropriate management of pain at their request (passive euthanasia) even if the patients’ choices hasten their deaths. Additionally, futile or disproportionately burdensome treatments, such as life-support machines, may be withdrawn under specified circumstances.



India joined the list in 2011 to legalise “mercy killing” under exceptional circumstances. The decision was made as part of the verdict in a case involving Aruna Shanbaug who has been in a vegetative state for 37 years. The High Court rejected active euthanasia by means of lethal injection. In the absence of a law regulating euthanasia in India, the court stated that its decision becomes the law of the land until the Parliament enacts a suitable law. Active euthanasia, including the administration of lethal compounds for the purpose of ending life, is still illegal in India.

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