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Euthanasia illegal in many countries

Last Updated : 07 March 2011, 13:03 IST
Last Updated : 07 March 2011, 13:03 IST

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Mercy killing, as it is popularly called, or euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands and Belgium. These countries allow it to be performed on patients who suffer from chronic pain associated with an incurable illness.

Active euthanasia is a state where a patient is given a lethal injection to put him/her to sleep, while passive euthanasia involves withdrawing life support systems from a patient.

An overview of the status of euthanasia in different countries:

Canada: Sue Rodriguez, popularly known as "Victoria Woman," diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 1991, asked legislators in 1992 to change the law banning assisted suicide. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled against Rodriguez, but she committed suicide in 1994 with the help of an anonymous doctor.

The Netherlands: The county introduced specific legislation to legalise assisted suicide and active euthanasia in 2002. But the courts had permitted them since 1984. The Dutch laid out narrow guidelines for doctors. The patients, who suffer unbearably and have no hope of improvement, may ask to die. He/she must clearly understand the condition and prognosis and a second doctor must agree with the decision to help the patient die.

Belgium: The country legalised euthanasia in 2002. Two doctors must be involved, and also a psychologist if the patient's competency is in doubt. The doctor and the patient can negotiate whether death is to be by lethal injection or prescribed overdose.

Switzerland: Suicide assisted by a physician and a non-physician is allowed since 1941, but euthanasia is banned. Three right-to-die organisations in the country help terminally ill people by providing counselling and lethal drugs. Death by injection is banned.

Britain: A legislation that would have legalised assisted suicide for the terminally ill was defeated in the House of Lords in May 2006.

United States: Only three US states - Oregon, Washington and Montana - have legalised passive euthanasia.

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Published 07 March 2011, 13:03 IST

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