What other jurisdictions have assisted dying laws, or are considering them?

Wed, 12 Aug, 2015

In 1993 no Western democracy expressly permitted assistance in dying, although assisted dying has not been illegal in Switzerland since 1941, provided that the person assisting a death does not have a vested interest in that person’s death. The process of legalisation began in 1994, when Oregon, as a result of a citizens’ initiative, altered its laws to permit assisted dying for a person suffering from a terminal disease. Physician-assisted suicide was legalised in the Northern Territory of Australia in 1995, but was nullified by the Federal Australian Parliament in 1997. Colombia legalised in 1997, after a decision of the constitutional court.  The Dutch Parliament established a regulatory regime for assisted dying in 2001; Belgium soon after adopted a similar regime, with Luxembourg joining in 2009. Together, these regimes have produced a body of evidence about the practical and legal workings of physician-assisted death and the efficacy of safeguards for the vulnerable. At the present time, nine jurisdictions permit some form of assisted dying: the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and Colombia. In February 2015, The Canadian Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the prohibition against assisted dying is unconstitutional. In September 2015 California legislators approved a bill that legalizes physician-assisted dying for terminally ill patients, while in the UK an assisted dying bill was defeated in the House of Commons.

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