The Telegraph reported Dec 16th that a public panel set up at the request of French President François Hollande has urged him to legalise assisted suicide in specific cases. According to a member of the panel the possibility of committing medically assisted suicide is a legitimate right of a patient close to death or suffering from a terminal pathology.
Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002 but has been since its enactment prohibited for patients below 18 years of age. This age limit is now under threat as the Belgian Senate recently voted by 50 votes to 17 to extend euthanasia to children with disabilities. The vote in the Senate followed from a Senate committee vote to allow minors to seek euthanasia under certain conditionsand to extend the right to request euthanasia to adults with dementia. No age limit would be set, but the children who are euthanized would have “to possess the capacity of discernment.”
There is still a possibility of halting the process in the House of Representatives, though pro-life campaigners fear it will become law.
There is also concern that the number of euthanasia deaths in Belgium is increasing rapidly, with an increase of 25% in 2012. Recent studies indicate that up to 47% of all assisted deaths are not being reported, 32% of all assisted deaths are being done without request and nurses are killing their patients, even though the law restricts euthanasia to doctors
Research conducted by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) in 2010 found that 32% of euthanasia deaths in the Flanders region of Belgium occurred without an explicit request.
The Netherlands also legislated for euthanasia in 2002. The legislation there allows patients experiencing unbearable suffering to request euthanasia, and doctors who carry it out to be free from the threat of prosecution, provided they have followed strict procedures.
According to this law patients must face a future of unbearable, interminable suffering and the request to die must be voluntary and well considered.
Doctor and patient must be convinced there is no other solution
A second medical opinion must be obtained and life must be ended in a medically appropriate way. The patient facing incapacitation may leave a written agreement to their death.
Switzerland has an unusual position on assisted suicide: it is legally condoned and can be performed by non-physicians. Euthanasia however is illegal, but there is an ongoing debate about decriminalization.