New Delhi: The Supreme Court verdict, authorising the withdrawal of life-support system for terminally ill patients, stems from a petition filed by an NGO, which sought the enactment of the law on the lines of Patient Autonomy and Self-determination Act in USA. As India legalises the right to die with dignity, here’s a look at other countries where passive euthanasia is already in practice.
While euthanasia is still illegal in most parts of the United States, the doctors are allowed to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients in five state -- Washington DC, California, Colorado, Oregon and Vermont. Oregon was the first US state to legalise “assisted suicide”.
Assisted dying refers to both voluntary active euthanasia and physician-assisted death. Voluntary active euthanasia involves the physician playing an active role in the patient’s request to die, usually by supplying an intravenous lethal substance. Physician-assisted death implies that the medical personnel provides the patient with the lethal means to kill themselves, meaning it’s the patient who employs them.
According to reports, roughly 300 terminally ill Americans were prescribed lethal medications in 2013, and around 230 people died as a result of taking them. Some patients choose not to take the medication. In recent years, the ‘aid in dying’ movement has made incremental gains, but the issue remains controversial.
Belgium became the second country in the world to pass a law in 2002 to legalise euthanasia. The law mentions doctors can help patients to end their lives when they freely express a wish to die after suffering unbearable pain. Patients can also receive euthanasia if they have clearly stated it before entering a coma or similar vegetative state. Interestingly, Belgium became the first country to legalise euthanasia for children in 2014. There is no age limit for minors seeking a lethal injection but there are strict norms for it.
The term ‘euthanasia’ is generally not used in Germany because of its association with the eugenicist policies of the Nazi era. Hence, the law between assisted suicide and active assisted suicide. Assisted suicide is legal as long as the lethal drug is taken without any help, such as someone guiding or supporting the patient's hand.
Netherlands became the first country to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide by passing a law in 2002. The country imposed a strict set of conditions -- the patient must be suffering unbearable pain, their illness must be incurable, and the patient must make the demand in “full consciousness”. In 2010, 3,136 people were given a lethal cocktail under medical supervision.