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Map of assisted dying

Select a country to explore the different laws, legislations, language and attitudes towards assisted dying, from around the world.

Netherlands

United Kingdom

United Arab Emirates

Switzerland

South Africa

Japan

Colombia

Serbia

Canada

Australia

Map of assisted dying

Select a country to explore the different laws, legislations, language and attitudes towards assisted dying, from around the world.

Netherlands

United Kingdom

United Arab Emirates

Switzerland

South Africa

Japan

Colombia

Serbia

Canada

Australia

BackgroundIn 1984 the Royal Dutch Medical Association (RDMA) published guidance on assistance in dying. This resulted in a situation where euthanasia was not lawful but practiced and not prosecuted if certain criteria were met and the guidelines of the RDMA were followed.

The first country to legally allow euthanasia.

Netherlands

Terminology

What's lawful

What's not allowed

Did you know?

In 2001 the Wet toetsing levensbeëindiging op verzoek en hulp bij zelfdoding (Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act) was passed. It came into force on 1st April 2002. This legalised euthanasia in certain situations

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BackgroundIn 1941 Switzerland made a distinction between the act of participating in the death of another and supplying the means of death. This was in Article 115 of the Swiss Penal Code. The distinction means that although euthanasia remains illegal, assisting someone to take their own life is lawful.

The first country anywhere in the world to legally allow assistance in dying.

Switzerland

Terminology

What's lawful

What's not allowed

Did you know...

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BackgroundPrior to February 2015 assisted suicide and euthanasia were illegal. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled in February 2015 that certain adults were entitled to euthanasia. Subsequently the Canadian parliament legalised both euthanasia and physician assisted suicide in June 2016 through Bill C-14.

Canada has one of the most lenient euthanasia laws.

Canada

Terminology

What's lawful

What's not allowed

Did you know...

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BackgroundSuicide was decriminalised in 1961 in England and Wales, and in 1966 in Northern Ireland. At the same time as decriminalising suicide, assisting suicide was made a criminal offence. Scotland never criminalised suicide and so no criminal offence of assisting suicide exists, but assisting someone in their suicide can be prosecuted as reckless endangerment or culpable homicide. Euthanasia and assisting someone to die is illegal in all four nations.

Tolerance rather than legal permission.

United Kingdom

Terminology

What's lawful

What's not allowed

Did you know...

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BackgroundEach of Australia's six states and two territories have their own government, as well as Australia having an overall federal government. Suicide and assisted suicide were both originally crimes in Australia.In 1996 the Northern Territory legalised euthanasia. This was repealed in 1997 by the federal government which passed legislation that outlawed euthanasia in all territories. The six states have subsequently all passed their own laws between 2017 and 2022 which have legalised euthanasia in the states. New South Wales was the last to pass legislation permitting euthanasia in May 2022 and it comes into effect in November 2023.

Yes, no and mostly.

Australia

Terminology

What's lawful

What's not allowed

Did you know...

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BackgroundIn the late 1990s, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of decriminalising acts where doctors end someone’s life via “mercy killing/homicide”. Although euthanasia was effectively legalised in 1997, confusion over how this could be practiced meant that it took nearly 20 years until guidelines were produced for what is permissible as euthanasia upon request to die. In July 2021, the Colombian constitutional court extended euthanasia to those with non-terminal conditions.

First country in Latin America to decriminalise assisted dying.

Colombia

Terminology

What's lawful

What's not allowed

Did you know...

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BackgroundLegislation on assisted suicide has been proposed since the 1990s but no laws have been passed allowing any form of assisted dying. Various cases have been heard in the courts regarding individuals accused of providing assistance in dying, although historically people have been charged with murder. ‘Compassion’ can be a ground used to reduce the sentence that a person receives.

Intentional withholding and withdrawal of treatment allowed.

South Africa

Terminology

What's lawful

What's not allowed

Did you know...

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BackgroundAssisted suicide is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code (Inducement to suicide and assisted suicide): “Whoever causes death of an adult from mercy due to serious illness of such a person and at such person’s serious and explicit request, shall be punished with imprisonment lasting from six months to five years”.(Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia, Službeni Glasnik, no. 108/2014, art.117. – cited within Deric 2016). The codes that regulate assisted dying and murder came into effect 1 January 2006.

Explicitly prohibits compassionate murder.

Serbia

Terminology

What's lawful

What's not allowed

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BackgroundThree high-profile court cases between 1995 and 2007 have informed sentencing around medical assistance in dying. Public debates often feature around conversations about the withholding and withdrawing of life-sustaining medical treatment. There are concerns that if assisted dying were legalised, people would opt for this to reduce caring burdens on their family.

No official law or guidance about medical assistance for dying.

Japan

Terminology

What's lawful

What's not allowed

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BackgroundLaws have changed in 2016 so that medical professionals are no longer required to resuscitate dying patients in certain contexts allowing for a ‘natural death’.

Dual legal system of civil and Sharia laws, recently extending to include common law.

UAE

Terminology

What's lawful

What's not allowed

Did you know...

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  • MAID is only available to Canadian residents. Residency means being eligible to receive Canadian funded healthcare.
  • MAID can only be undertaken where those involved in assisting the person to die do not have any legal or financial relationship to the person who dies.

What's not allowed?

Japan does not allow any form of euthanasia.

What's not allowed?

Some people argue that euthanasia should not be legalised in Japan because of a more collectivist, rather than individualistic choice – stance towards medical decision making and approaches to following guidelines.

Did you know?

As the six Australian states each have their own legislative provision for assisted dying, the terms used differ slightly between them. Generally, 'voluntary assisted dying' is a common term used. However, all the legislation recognises euthanasia and assisted dying as meaning that someone provides the means of death to the person wishing to die and/or assists them with their death.

Terminology

  • Whilst it is not explicitly criminalised for people outside of the country to come to Colombia for euthanasia, this is not considered to be allowed.

What's not allowed?

What's not allowed?

  • Assistance in dying cannot be provided by anyone other than a doctor
  • Citizens of other countries not normally eligible for euthanasia in Netherlands

  • 'Mercy killings’, even with the patient’s or family’s expressed wishes, are not permitted. Mercy is concerned with reducing the patient’s suffering not ending their life.
  • Switching off life support is considered a criminal offence unless the person has experienced complete cessation of breathing, and/or cardiac arrest, and/or brain death (loss of certain brain functions to sustain living).
  • Assisting someone with a suicide attempt is can result in an unspecified jail sentence.

What's not allowed?

  • Where a person has a bodily injury, or serious diagnosed illness, and considers pain related to the illness incompatible with their vision of dignity and cannot be relieved they can request assistance in dying. A person needn't be in the last six months of life to make the request. However, they must be able to freely consent to assistance in dying, which is to be provided by a medical professional. Cases are reviewed by an independent committee before assistance is provided.
  • Children with life-limiting conditions between the age of 7-12 can also request assistance in dying, with parental assent required. Between the ages of 12-14, children can request it even if parents disagree. Over the age of 14, people can consent for themselves.

What is lawful?

  • Voluntary assistance in dying is the term used when someone receives another’s help in their death.
  • Euthanasia is taken to mean when one person actively ends the life of another.
  • Suicide tourism refers to someone travelling to Switzerland to receive assistance in their death.

Terminology

Across the six states of Australia, the laws on assisted dying have similar requirements, which can be summarised as:

  • Where an Australian citizen resident in the relevant state is over 18 and makes a voluntary request whilst having the capacity to do so, and whilst suffering with a terminal illness (in some states the condition does not have to be terminal but incurable or irreversible), they can request euthanasia.
  • Once the request is made the person is assessed to determine if they are eligible. Usually the requirement is that the person has to make a persistent request, that is makes the request more than once and usually three times, before the assistance is provided.

What is lawful?

Medical assistance in dying (MAID) is the term used in Canada for voluntary euthanasia, the taking of a person’s life at their own request. Physician administered suicide and physician assisted suicide are both terms used within Canada.

Terminology

  • Passive euthanasia is generally considered permissible, however all forms of euthanasia and assisted dying remain unresolved legal issues.
  • People can have advance directives allowing them to decline future treatments, and these are to be considered when making treatment decisions, although they are not legally recognised.

What is lawful?

  • A person can end their own life by committing suicide.
  • A patient can refuse lifesaving treating even if it will result in their death.
  • Healthcare practitioners can withhold, or withdraw, life saving or life sustaining treatment, even if this will result in the death of the patient, so long as they do so in the patient’s best interests.
  • A healthcare practitioner may give a drug to a patient that may shorten their life if they do so to ease the patient’s pain and suffering, and not to cause the patient’s death. This is known as the doctrine of double effect.

What is lawful?

The length of imprisonment for compassionate murder is less than prison sentences for other forms of murder (six months to five years compared to five to fifteen years).

Did you know?

  • Actively ending someone’s life.
  • The key distinction in the United Kingdom is the intention behind someone’s act. If a healthcare practitioner does something with the intent to end their patient’s life, this is unlawful. If the death of a patient is an unintended consequence of treating, or not treating, the patient, this would not be unlawful.

What's not allowed?

Desmond Tutu, well-known South African bishop and theologian, expressed a desire for allowing assisted dying to facilitate a ‘right to die with dignity’. Some people consider withholding and withdrawal of treatment to have different ethical implications.

Did you know?

Passive euthanasia including intentionally withdrawing or withholding treatments or medical interventions.

Terminology

Terminology

Uses the terms euthanasia and assisted suicide to mean when a doctor terminates the life of a patient at their express request or participates in the assisted suicide of the patient.

During the period that assisted suicide was lawful in the Northern Territory, 3 people received physician assisted suicide.

Did you know?

The court’s rulings in the 1990s referred to ‘mercy killing’ and ‘euthanasia’ by medical professionals. The practices allowed are similar to what other countries refer to as euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

Terminology

Provided that the act that causes the death of a person is undertaken by the person who dies, another person may provide assistance to them. This assistance may be the means of dying, for instance prescribing or supplying a drug that causes death, or the facilities in which to die, or information about which drugs to take.

  • The person who provides assistance must do so for non-selfish motives.
  • A physician does not have to be involved and the person who is to die does not need to be terminally ill.

What is lawful?

  • Assisted suicide, including physician-assisted suicide, is illegal. This includes inciting and/or aiding suicide and suicide-attempts. Active euthanasia is also illegal.
  • If a person is found guilty of inciting or aiding in suicide of a child or ‘mentally incompetent person’ (someone without mental capacity), the punishment increases to a minimum of 10 years.

What's not allowed?

  • It is legally permitted for a doctor to suggest euthanasia to their patients.
  • Until 2024 mental illness is not a ground for MAID
  • The safeguards within the MAID protocol have been criticised for being too lax.

Did you know?

Did you know?

There is no requirement that the patient is terminally ill or that the patient’s suffering is physical in nature. Neither is there a waiting period from making the request to the termination of life being undertaken. Patients from the age of 12 may request euthanasia but require the consent of a parent or guardian until the age of 16.

In 2020, suicide, suicide attempts, and self-harm, were decriminalised. People are now referred to professional mental health support.Although still illegal, the motive of mercy, if found to guilty of killing someone, may reduce the sentence given under Article 96 of the Penal Code.

Did you know?

Although assistance in dying is lawful, wherever assistance is given in someone’s suicide, this has to be reported to the police so that they may investigate. Since 1985 organisations have existed which assist individuals with their death. Since 1998, Switzerland has become a common destination for foreigners who want assistance in their death because there is no domicile requirement in order to receive assistance.

Did you know?

  • People can refuse treatment that may be lifesaving or life sustaining.

What is lawful?

  • There is no official law or guidance about medical assistance for dying or euthanasia. Case law governs consideration and sentencing of individual situations of assistance of dying, based on cases of passive and active euthanasia. Doctors have been found guilty of homicide and given imprisonment with hard labour.

What is lawful?

Although assisting suicide is unlawful it is tolerated in some circumstances and there is guidance as to whether someone would be prosecuted or not. The guidance does not apply in Scotland as there is no criminal offence of assisted suicide. The guidance lists factors that would favour prosecution, and those factors which disfavour prosecution.

Favour prosecution

  • The person who dies is under 18
  • The assistant has assisted others in their suicide
  • The assistant is a healthcare practitioner and the person who died is in their care
  • The assistant was paid for their assistance
  • The person who died did not have the ability to make their own decisions
  • The assistant put pressure on the person to end their life

Disfavour prosecution

  • The person who dies is over 18
  • The suicide is voluntary
  • The assistant knows the person who committed suicide
  • The assistant tried to dissuade the person
  • The assistant acted out of compassion
  • The assistant tried to dissuade the person

Did you know?

  • Active forms of euthanasia or assisted dying are not permitted.

What's not allowed?

  • Any form of euthanasia is unlawful. This means that it is unlawful for a person to actively end the life of another, even if it is requested by the person who would die.
  • If someone assists another person to end their life for a selfish reason, this would be unlawful. A selfish reason would include where the person offering assistance gains through the person’s death.

What's not allowed?

  • Suicide refers to the taking of one’s own life.
  • Assisting suicide is anything that assists someone with taking their one life, such as providing information, advice or the means for suicide.
  • Euthanasia is when one person actively ends the life of another.
  • Assistance in dying can refer to assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Terminology

People have rights to palliative care before euthanasia, however, access to palliative care is variable across the country. A key aspect of the legislation is not forcing people to suffer in conditions they perceive to be unbearable.

Did you know?

  • Euthanasia is not lawful in either the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory
  • Euthanasia is not allowed until the person has been assessed for their eligibility by an appropriate practitioner(s), or where the person has failed the eligibility test.

What's not allowed?

‘Natural dying’ where the person’s body is following a process of biological decline and cessation of bodily functions required to sustain life. ‘Mercy killing’ referring to various forms of euthanasia.

Terminology

What is lawful?

No criminal offence occurs if:

  • a doctor
    • Believes the patient is making a voluntary and considered request
    • Is of the opinion that the patient’s suffering is unbearable to them and is lasting
    • Informs the patient of their condition and options available to them and their prospectus
  • both the patent and the doctor believe that there is no other reasonable option for the patient
  • the doctor has consulted at least one other doctor, who agrees with the points above
  • and, the doctor has to report the act to the relevant authorities

The English-translated legislation is often referred to as ‘compassionate murder’ or ‘compassionate killing’ or ‘mercy killing’, but explicit words linked to assisted dying are used.

Terminology

Medical professionals are not held liable for not attempting resuscitation, or using advanced cardiac life support, if three doctors have advised against resuscitation, and/or other life-sustaining or life-prolonging treatments are considered futile.This does not require the patient’s and/or family’s consent to withhold treatment, but if a patient requests resuscitation, it should be done. The aim of this law is to allow people to die ‘naturally’ without further medical intervention.

What is lawful?

Individuals who wish to receive MAID must be at least 18, and have a grievous and irremediable medical condition. MAID has to be undertaken according to a strict protocol for it to be lawful. This protocol outlines the steps that must be taken:

  • obtaining consent from the patient
  • that the patient’s consent must be witnessed
  • two doctors or nurse practitioners must confirm that the patient’s condition is appropriate for them to receive MAID
  • the medication to be used to cause death is stipulated in the protocol

What is lawful?

There is no official definition due to lack of legislation. People may refer to voluntary assistance in dying or euthanasia although there may be subtle differences between these. There are two Japanese terms used in this context: anrakushi and songenshi. The Japanese term used is anrakushi, which implies a ‘peaceful death’ that may be brought forward in time. ‘Death with dignity’ in Japan refers to withholding or withdrawing of life-prolonging medical treatment with the patient’s consent. The Japanese term used in this context is songenshi, which can also refer to natural death.

Terminology