As France’s parliament prepares to debate a controversial law which would allow euthanasia for those with terminal illnesses, here is a round-up of the situation in Europe.
The Netherlands legalized active and direct euthanasia in 2002. Lethal doses of drugs are authorized if patients request them 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 wish to die.
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, reasoned and repeated manner, free from coercion.
In 2014 Belgium became the first country to authorize children to request euthanasia if they suffer a terminal disease and understand the consequences of the act.
In neighboring Luxembourg a text legalizing euthanasia in certain terminal cases was approved in 2009. It excludes minors.
Spanish MPs voted through a law allowing euthanasia in March under strict conditions so that terminally ill or gravely injured patients can end their suffering. It comes into force in June.
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 consequence.
Last month Portugal’s top court rejected a law decriminalizing euthanasia that had been approved by parliament in January.
The bill, which would have legalized access to assisted suicide for adult patients in a situation of “extreme suffering and irreversible damage”, now goes back to parliament for possible amendment.
A halt of treatment, however, is allowed in certain desperate cases.
Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled in 2019 that it was not always a crime to help someone in “intolerable suffering” commit suicide.
Halting medical procedures that maintain life, called passive euthanasia, is also tolerated.
‘Right to die’
In France a 2005 law legalized passive euthanasia as a “right to die”. A 2016 law allows doctors to couple this with “deep and continuous sedation” for terminally ill patients, while keeping euthanasia and assisted suicide illegal up to now.
A debate on “free and chosen” euthanasia for incurably ill patients in France’s lower house on Thursday faces 3,000 amendments and is far from sure of passage.
Sweden authorized passive euthanasia in 2010 and Ireland also recognizes the “right to die”.
Britain has allowed medical personnel to halt life-preserving treatment in certain cases since 2002. Prosecution of those who have helped close relatives to die after they have clearly expressed the desire to end their lives has receded since 2010.
In Austria and Germany, passive euthanasia is permitted if requested by the patient.
Austria’s constitutional court ruled in October the country was violating fundamental rights in making assisted suicide illegal and ordered the government to lift the ban in 2021.
Denmark has allowed people to file written refusal of excessive treatment in dire situations since 1992, with the document held in a centralized register.
In Norway passive euthanasia is permitted if requested by the patient or by a relative, if the patient is unconscious.
In Hungary people with incurable diseases can refuse treatment.
It is also legal to end treatment of terminally ill people in Lithuania and Latvia.