Global Trend: Should Euthanasia be Legal?

By Angela Mauroni, Guest Columnist

Oct. 25, 2013


The legalization of euthanasia has been subject of debate all over the world. The first country to legalize it was the Netherlands in 2001, according to the website, and the law was only formally accepted with the addition of strict guidelines.

These guidelines were that, “Adult patients must be beyond any hope of recovery and face continuous, unbearable pain; the patient must make repeated, clear, and reasoned requests to die; a second physician must be consulted; the action must be carried out in a medically approved manner; and parental consent is required for patients under 16 years old,” according to

Belgium followed suit in 2002 and it became legal in Luxembourg in 2008. These are the only countries where euthanasia is clearly legalized, though Colombia has no laws against it.

The debate over the legalization of euthanasia is particularly common in Europe, North America and Australia. Physician-assisted suicide is more commonly legalized than euthanasia.

It has been legal in Germany since 1751 and legal in Switzerland since 1942.

Many may be as surprised as I was to know that physician-assisted suicide is legal in parts of America as well.

The first state to legalize it was Oregon in 1994 with the thought that it would spark legalization in other states from there.

Although Washington managed to get the law passed in 2008, they first had to go through extensive campaigning and fundraising.

Montana has passed the law as well but only after the decision was taken to the Supreme Court, where they made a 5-4 decision in the Baxter v. Montana trial in favor of physician-assisted suicide.

Vermont was able to legalize as recently as May of 2013. Since 1994, there have been 135 proposals for the law in 27 states.

Despite all of these proposals, only these four states legalized physician-assisted suicide.

So why is the debate still going back and forth?

People believe that if doctor-assisted suicide is legalized, the elderly will be less likely to go to hospitals for fear of being euthanized.

There is also the fear of putting trust in the doctors. One study, conducted by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, concluded that 32 percent of physician-assisted deaths in the northern part of Belgium were done without consent.

However, the reasons for not obtaining consent were that 70 percent of those patients were comatose and 21 percent had dementia.

Despite protestations to euthanasia and assisted suicide, there are equal amounts of pleas for their legalization.

Many argue that it is far crueler to make patients suffer for extra time when their illness is terminal.

The law is often called the “Death With Dignity Act,” as on the Patients Rights Council website.

In one case of Nathan Verhelst, it was not because of a terminal illness that he was euthanized but that he “felt like a monster.”

After being born a woman, growing up with an unloving family and feeling as though he was trapped in a girl’s body his whole life, he began hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgeries in 2009.

These did not meet his expectations.

“I was ready to celebrate my new birth. But when I looked in the mirror, I was disgusted with myself,” Verhelst said when interviewed by the Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws just hours before his death.

Verhelst was a rare case, however. The 2012 commission’s census showed that those who suffer psychologically only made up 10 percent of those who were administered the euthanization medications.

According to the Belgian Evaluation Commission for Euthanasia, more than 75 percent of the Belgian applications were by people suffering from severe forms of cancer.

In Belgium, there is a restriction on age as well. There is debate about whether or not to expand the law to minors who suffer from terminal illnesses, given that they and their parents have provided explicit consent.

However, the argument there is whether or not the minors would be capable of making such a weighted decision.

Ethics aside, an article posted on the Listverse website also argues that it is more economically reasonable. The website argues that the care of one person at the end of their life can cost an estimated $39,000.

“For 40 percent of households, the bill exceeds their financial assets,” Listverse said

After all of this evidence has been presented, I have decided that—only when under the right circumstances—it is okay for someone to choose euthanasia.

It is, after all, their life that they are deciding to continue or end.

I don’t believe a person should be forced to suffer for longer when they need to when they will only meet the same end in the long run. Or in some cases, within the same week.

I think that it is dependent on an incurable cause of suffering, which many of the legislation accounts that is argued accounts for.

Because this is such an individual decision, I leave it to each individual to decide after hearing both sides, to make up their own mind about what is reasonable and moral, and what is not.