Canada joins handful of countries, U.S. states in allowing assisted suicide

Fri Feb 6, 2015 2:28pm EST
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(Reuters) - A Supreme Court of Canada ruling on Friday clears the way for physician-assisted suicide and puts the country in the company of a handful of Western nations and U.S. states that allow assisted suicide or euthanasia for some people who are terminally ill or have intolerable suffering:


BELGIUM - Legalized euthanasia in 2002. It has pioneered legalization of euthanasia beyond terminal illness to include those suffering unbearable mental pain. Last year, it became the first country to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children at any age, though application for minors is limited to those about to die.

The word euthanasia is usually used to describe cases where a doctor actually administers a drug to end a patient's life. In physician-assisted suicide, a doctor prescribes a lethal drug but patients must administer it themselves.

COLOMBIA - Euthanasia is a crime but it carries a shorter sentence than homicide. The country's top court has ruled that a doctor who helps a consenting, terminally ill patient end his or her life cannot be prosecuted for euthanasia. It urged legislation be created.

LUXEMBOURG - Legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide for adults in 2008. Patients must have a terminal illness or be experiencing constant and unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement.

THE NETHERLANDS - Doctors can perform euthanasia or prescribe a lethal drug for patients to administer themselves if they are experiencing "unbearable suffering". Patients must make a voluntary, well-considered request to die. Minors can request euthanasia from the age of 12, but parents must consent until they are 16.

SWITZERLAND - Has allowed assisted suicide since the 1940s, including for people who do not have a terminal illness, and for non-citizens. Some foreigners travel to Switzerland to commit suicide, a phenomenon dubbed "suicide tourism".   Continued...