At the moment it is legal to practice euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in the following countries: Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, and Canada. PAS only (excludes euthanasia), is allowed in Switzerland and the following five U.S. states: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and California. The first of the states to legalized PAS was Oregon, who made it legal almost 20 years ago and in Switzerland, PAS has been legal since 1942.
An international team of researchers examined several decades’ worth of data on worldwide attitudes toward these controversial practices and their general patterns of use. They found that about two thirds of Americans support PAS and in Western Europe, public support for euthanasia is steadily increasing. However, in Eastern Europe, there has been a decline in support following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The data also showed that the main factor contributing to opposition was religion.
When the researchers polled U.S. physicians, less than half reported support of these practices. In the past decade, more than 80% have said they dread the emotional turmoil involved and could envision becoming involved in a case.
In 2015, reported PAS cases in Oregon and Washington only accounted for a minority of deaths (total cases, 298; <1% of deaths). Most patients were white, well educated, well insured, and most had cancer. Pain was seldom cited as a reason for the decision; more often it was loss of autonomy, dignity, or joy in life.
- Emanuel EJ et al. Attitudes and practices of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the United States, Canada, and Europe. JAMA 2016 Jul 5; 316:79. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.2016.8499)