Countries with End-of-life help laws and/or regulations
The Swiss Criminal Code, which became effective on 1 January 1942, penalizes assist- ance in suicide out of selfish motives. The Swissgerman original text speaks of „selbstsüchtig“ which also translates into “self-seeking, self-serving”, clarifying that it takes a clearly despicable, egoistic motive. An example would be to deliberately incite a person to commit suicide in order to rid oneself of having to pay financial support for that person; or to do so in order to inherit earlier. If no such reprobate motives are given (e contrario), no offence is done. in Switzerland, euthanasia - both voluntary or involuntary - is prohibited.
English (non-official) version of the Swiss Criminal Code (Link / PDF)
Since becoming effective on 1 April 2002, The Netherlands have the “Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act” (Wet toetsing levensbeëindiging op verzoek en hulp bij zelfdodin, WTL) which in one edict regulates the ending of life on explicit request by the individual (voluntary euthanasia) as well as accompanied suicide.
English version of the law in The Netherlands (PDF)
Information by the Government of the Netherlands (Link)
An “Euthanasia-Law”, which permits and regulates the ending of life by physicians on request by the individual who wishes to end life, become effective as of 22 September 2002. It is complimented by a law on patient’s rights of 22 August 2002 and a regulation on palliative care.
The law in Belgium (Link to the website of ADMD, in French)
On 16 March 2009, a law on palliative care, patient’s advance directive (patient’s living will) and assistance in dying, as well as a law on assisted suicide became effective.
The law in Luxembourg (Link, in French)
US-State of Oregon
In 1998, the ‘Death with Dignity Act’ came into force, a law regulating physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients who have a life-expectancy of not more than 6 months.
Website of the government with links to the law and annual reports (Link)
US-State of Washington
Since 2008, a similar law exists like the one in the US-State of Oregon, also called ‘Death with Dignity Act’.
Website of the government with links to the law, reports, forms, etc. (Link)
US-State of Vermont
The Parliament of Vermont supported "An act relating to patient choice and control at the end of life" and approved a law similar to the "Death with Dignity Act" in the US-States Oregon and Washington. The law offers terminally ill competent individuals a procedure which allows them a self-determined end of life by ingestion of medication provided by a physician. Gouvernor Peter Shumlin signed the Act on 20 May 2013 which, however, enacted the new law only partially. The part on "death with dignity" and immunity for physicians will come into force by 1 July 2016.
Website of the Department of Health, with text of the law, forms, etc. (Link)
US-State of California
On 5 October 2015, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed legislation to allow physicians assisted suicide for terminally ill – the End of Life Option Act. Thus, California becomes a further US-State in which terminally ill have freedom of choice to self-determinedly end their suffering with physician’s assessment and prescription of medication. The End of Life Option Act definetely took effect on 9 June 2016.
Website of the government with the text of the law and further information (Link)
US-State of Colorado
On 9 September 2016, 65 % of the voters in Colorado supported a proposition for a «Colorado End-of-Life Options Act». This law bases on the «Death with Dignity Act» in Oregon. It came into force on 16 December 2016.
Text of the Act (Link/PDF)
Facts about the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act (Link/PDF)
District of Columbia / Washington DC
The Washington, D.C. Death with Dignity Act has come into effect on 18 February 2017. In December 2016, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser had signed the Death with Dignity Act, which legalized assisted suicide in the district and gave doctors the ability to offer lethal medication to individuals who are terminally ill and will die within six months. The Act is supported by 67 % of D.C. people. Unfortunately, the time-consuming process of district agencies setting up the required process and the city identifying funds for the project put the Act at risk. The District of Columbia is not a State and thus needs federal approval. Federal Law Makers and the House of Representatives Oversight Committee aim at crushing the Act, thus turning back the clocks.
Full text of the Act B21-0038 (Link / PDF)
Further ressources, provided by Death with Dignity National Center (Link)
US-State of Montana
Montana became the third US-State which has, in theory, legalised physician-assisted-suicide through a single-case Court decision: On 31 December 2009, the Supreme Court of Montana ruled that, under the Constitution of Montana, Article II, paragraph 4 and 10, terminally ill Robert Baxter had the right to a dignified death and at the same time that his physician had the right to being protected from prosecution. Even though the right to physician assisted dying was not guaranteed by the Constitution of Montana, such assistance, taking into consideration court cases and the law, was not in conflict with public interests and therefore not illegal. The decision was done by 5 : 2.
Decision of the Supreme Court of Montana (Link)
US-State of New Mexico
After Montana, New Mexico is another State which, in theory, legalised physician-assisted suicide through a single case Court decision: New Mexico State law provides a fundamental right to a terminally ill, competent patient to choose a physician’s aid in getting prescription medications that will allow a peaceful death, Second Judicial District Judge Nan Nash ruled on April 3, 2014. The Court ruled that two oncologists at the University of New Mexico Hospital could not be prosecuted under the state’s Assisted Suicide Statute, which is defined as the act of “deliberately aiding another in the taking of his own life", and makes such assistance punishable.
Decision of the Second Judicial District Court (Link)
On 6 February 2015, in a unanimous 9:0 decision Canada’s Supreme Court has struck down the country’s Criminal Code laws prohibiting physician-assisted suicide. The rule did not come into force for 12 months; extended by another 4 months on application by the government to gain time for drafting legislation. This delay elapsed 6 June 2016. It means it is no longer against the law, under certain circumstances, for a doctor to help someone who is severely ill to end their life.
Supreme Court judgment of Carter v. Canada (Link)
A brief summary of the case by the BCCLA (Link)
On 17 June 2016, Bill C-14 – an Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying) – passed in the House of Commons and the Senate and is now law in Canada.
Legislative Summary of Bill C-14 (Link)
Bill C-14 in English and French (Link / PDF)
However, Bill C-14 will be challenged in court because it conflicts with the Supreme Court’s decision: by limiting access to only those patients whose natural deaths are “reasonably foreseeable”, the new law denies rightful access to entire classes of patients who have severe chronic conditions but who are not approaching end of life. (Link)
Province of Québec, Canada
On 5 June 2014 the Assemblée Nationale du Québec voted 94 : 22 for the introduction of the Bill n° 52 : An Act respecting end-of-life care. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that end-of-life patients are provided care that is respectful of their dignity and their autonomy and to recognise the primacy of wishes expressed freely and clearly with respect to end-of-life care. It sets out special rules applicable to the providers of end-of-life care. It also establishes requirements for certain types of end-of-life care, namely continuous palliative sedation and medical aid in dying. The Bill will come into force on 10 December 2015 or earlier.
Website of the National Assembly of Canada with the law-text, forms, etc. (Link)
Taiwan passed a “Patient Autonomy Act” on 18 December 2015, making it the first Asian country to allow patients under five specific clinical conditions to refuse life-sustaining treatments including artificial nutrition and hydration even if they are not terminally ill. The law was draft by Professor Sun, Hsiao-Chih and Yang, Yu-Xing, former legislator of Taiwan.
Patient Autonomy Act (Link, in Chinese)