The debate is old: to legalize euthanasia or not? The assisted suicide of Alain Cocq on June 15 in Switzerland reopens the debate in France. But what are the laws governing the end of life for our neighbors?
To read also: VIDEO – Alain Cocq asks for the “right to a dignified death”
The Netherlands, the first to legalize euthanasia
In the Netherlands, since 2002, the administration of a drug causing death is authorized when the patient requests it in full possession of his means and suffers “unbearable and interminable” suffering due to a disease diagnosed as incurable. The advice of a second doctor is necessary.
The Netherlands was also the first to allow strict conditions for euthanasia for minors 12 and over. In April 2020, the Supreme Court approved the euthanasia of people with advanced dementia, even if they are no longer able to reiterate their wish.
In October, the Netherlands announced plans to legalize euthanasia for terminally ill children between the ages of one and 12.
In Belgium, no age limit
Belgium also decriminalized euthanasia in 2002 under conditions strictly defined by law. The patient can express his wishes in an “advance declaration” valid for five years or make the express request if he is able to express himself.
In February 2014, Belgium became the first country to authorize euthanasia without age limit for children “capable of discernment” suffering from an incurable disease.
To read also: Euthanasia: “France sheds its responsibility on Belgium”
Classical euthanasia or assisted suicide
Since March 2009, euthanasia has been authorized in Luxembourg under certain conditions for convicted adult patients.
In Spain, the parliament definitively approved the legalization of euthanasia on March 18, which is due to come into force in June. This law authorizes both euthanasia and medically assisted suicide (when the patient himself takes the prescribed dose of product to kill himself).
Right to assisted suicide alone
In Italy, the Constitutional Court decriminalized in September 2019 assisted suicide under strict conditions, despite a law prohibiting it.
Switzerland, where Alain Cocq went, authorizes assisted suicide and tolerates indirect euthanasia (treating suffering with possible side effects of death) and passive euthanasia (interruption of the life-sustaining medical device).
In Germany and Austria, passive euthanasia is tolerated if the patient has requested it. In Austria, the Constitutional Court ruled in December that the country was violating basic law by making assisted suicide a criminal offense, ordering the government to pass legislation to lift the ban by the end of 2021.
France introduced in 2005 a right to “let die” which favors palliative care, then authorized in 2016 “deep and continuous sedation until death”, which consists of permanently lulling incurable patients and in very great suffering, whose vital prognosis is “in the short term”.
In Sweden, passive euthanasia has been legal since 2010. In Norway, passive euthanasia is authorized at the request of the patient at the end of life or a loved one if the latter is unconscious.
In Latvia, doctors are not prosecuted if they disconnect a patient at the end of life to put an end to his suffering.
Discontinuation of treatment tolerated
In the United Kingdom, the interruption of care in certain cases has been authorized since 2002. Since 2010, prosecutions have been less systematic against people helping a loved one to commit suicide out of compassion, if the latter has clearly expressed the intention to do so.
In Denmark, since 1992, every citizen can declare in writing his refusal of any harsh treatment. In Lithuania, stopping treatment at the end of life is authorized. This is also the case in Slovenia if the patient has expressed the wish.
In Hungary, incurable patients can refuse their treatment. Finally, in Portugal, only the cessation of treatment is allowed in certain desperate cases.