Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen - 19/01/2018

Danielle van Dalen

By Danielle van Dalen -

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Short Cuts Info | Not a common law

Where in the world is this practice legal? How often is this considered by other jurisdictions?

Of a total 252 jurisdictions considered (195 countries; 50 US states, the District of Columbia, and 6 Australian states) only 13 allow some combination of euthanasia and assisted suicide, with two additional jurisdictions where the practices are somewhat allowed.1 That means euthanasia or assisted suicide are legal in only about 6% of jurisdictions worldwide.2

When confronted with changing laws about how we die, legislators the world over defeat bills to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia far more often than they choose to pass them

In the last three years alone, moves to make euthanasia and assisted suicide legal have been defeated or overturned in:

New South Wales – Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 defeated 20 to 19;3
Maine – LD 347 voted down in House of Representatives 85 to 61;4
Tasmania – Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill defeated 16 to 8;5
New Mexico – SB 252 voted down in Senate Judiciary Committee and in the full Senate 22 to 20;6

South Australia – Death with Dignity Bill defeated 24 to 23;7
New Hampshire – SB 426 voted down in House of Representatives 174 to 123;8
South Africa – Supreme Court of Appeal overturned High Court decision to allow terminally patient physician assisted suicide;9

United Kingdom – Rob Marris’ Private Member’s Bill defeated 330 to 118;10
Scotland – Patrick Harvie’s Assisted Suicide Scotland Bill defeated 82 to 36.11

Since the 1990s, US states and countries around the world have considered hundreds of bills to legalise euthanasia and/or assisted suicide but the majority of these have either been defeated, stalled, or withdrawn due to lack of support, or passed on for further study and debate.

Many of these bills were rejected after significant consideration through the political process, often through Select Committee reports.

Examples include:

– The 2015 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee’s Report on the proposed Assisted Suicide Bill which emphasised the importance of end-of-life care and, rather than legalisation of assisted suicide, led to an investigation into palliative care services.12
– The three volume 2005 report of the Select Committee on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill in the British House of Lords where the committee visited Oregon, the Netherlands and Switzerland to further explore the outworking of the law in jurisdictions that have legalised assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.13


1 Kennedy Institute of Ethics, “Euthanasia Regulations Around the World,” available at: https://ethicslab.georgetown.edu/euthanasia-map/ (accessed 10 July 2017), and Death with Dignity National Center, “Death with Dignity Around the U.S.” available at: https://www.deathwithdignity.org/take-action/ (accessed 10 July 2017)
2 The 13 jurisdictions are: The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, Canada, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Victoria and Hawaii. The 2 additional jurisdictions are Switzerland and Montana.
3 The Age, “Euthanasia to be legal in Victoria from 2019,” available at: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/euthanasia-to-be-legal-in-victoria-from-2019-20171129-gzuxa8.html (accessed 30 November 2017)
4 Death with Dignity National Center, “Maine: Current Status,” available at: https://www.deathwithdignity.org/states/maine/ (Accessed 10 July 2017)
5 The Guardian, “Assisted Dying Bill Fails to Pass Tasmanian Parliament,” available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/may/25/assisted-dying-bill-fails-to-pass-tasmanian-parliament (accessed 10 July 2017)
6 Death with Dignity National Center, “New Mexico: Current Status,” available at: https://www.deathwithdignity.org/states/new-mexico/ (accessed 10 July 2017)
7 ABC, “Voluntary Euthanasia: South Australian Parliament knocks back Death with Dignity euthanasia bill,” available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-16/voluntary-euthanasia-debate-in-south-australia-goes-to-committee/8031776 (accessed 10 July 2017)
8 Death with Dignity National Center, “New Hampshire: Current Status,” available at: https://www.deathwithdignity.org/states/new-hampshire/ (accessed 10 July 2017)
9 Africa News, “South Africa Court overturns right-to-die ruling for the terminally ill,” available at: https://www.deathwithdignity.org/states/new-hampshire/ (accessed 10 July 2017)
10 The Guardian, “Assisted Dying Bill overwhelmingly rejected by MPs,” available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/11/mps-begin-debate-assisted-dying-bill (Accessed 10 July 2017)
11 BBC, “MSPs reject Assisted Suicide Scotland Bill,” available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-32887408 (accessed 10 July 2017)
12 Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, “Stage 1 Report on Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill,” 30 April 2015, available at: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/88982.aspx (accessed 20 July 2017); “We need to talk about palliative care,” 25 November 2015, available at: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/94230.aspx (accessed 20 July 2017)
13 House of Lords, “Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Report,” available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldasdy.htm (accessed 20 July 2017)

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Danielle van Dalen

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