Euthanasia: Where it’s legal in Europe

Paris – Spain is poised to become one of a handful of European countries that have decriminalised euthanasia, which remains taboo in Poland and Greece.

Here is a round-up of the situation in Europe.

 

– Fully legal –

 

The Netherlands legalised active and direct euthanasia in 2002. Lethal doses of drugs are authorised if patients make the request while lucid.

They must also be experiencing unbearable suffering from a condition diagnosed as incurable by at least two doctors.

Last year the country’s highest court ruled that doctors will be able to conduct assisted suicides on patients with severe dementia without fear of prosecution, even if the patient no longer expressed an explicit death wish.

Map showing differences in laws about euthanasia in European countries

The Netherlands also moved towards making euthanasia legal for terminally-ill children aged between one and 12.

Belgium lifted restrictions on euthanasia in 2002 for patients facing constant, unbearable and untreatable physical or psychological suffering.

They must be aged 18 or over and request termination of life in a voluntary, deliberated and repeated manner, free from coercion.

In 2014 Belgium became the first country to authorise children to request euthanasia if they suffer a terminal disease and understand the consequences of the act.

In Luxembourg a text legalising euthanasia in certain terminal cases was approved in 2009. It excludes minors.

 

– Swiss exception –

 

Switzerland is one of the rare countries that allows assisted suicide with patients administering a lethal dose of medication themselves. It does not allow active, direct euthanasia by a third party but tolerates the provision of substances to relieve suffering, even if death is a possible side-effect.

 

– Spain and Portugal –

 

The bill that is set for final approval in Spain’s parliament on Thursday will allow euthanasia under strict conditions. Someone suffering from a “serious or incurable disease” will be allowed to receive medical assistance to die.

In March Portugal’s top court rejected a law decriminalising euthanasia that had been approved by parliament in January.

The bill, which would have legalised access to assisted suicide for adult patients in a situation of “extreme suffering and irreversible damage”, now goes back to parliament for possible amendment.

 

– Italian compromise –

 

Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled in 2019 it was not always a crime to help someone in “intolerable suffering” commit suicide. Parliament is set to debate a change in the law banning the practice.

The halting of medical procedures that maintain life, called passive euthanasia, is also tolerated.