On Thursday, Spain became the fourth country in Europe and the sixth country in the world to legalize euthanasia in their country thus allowing people to legally end their lives in certain tiring circumstances.
The law was met with both applaud and backlash. Opposition parties severely opposed the bill stating how the life and death of a person cannot be decided by the government. However, there were several who wanted the law to be enforced because it holds a deep emotive value for them as they now would be able to choose death over their horrible sufferings.
What is this euthanasia law you ask? How can it affect a person? And what are the circumstances under which this law can be evoked? If you are intrigued to know more, continue reading the article then, as we share with you all the precise details.
What is Euthanasia?
Euthanasia refers to the act of deliberately ending someone’s life to relieve them from suffering. It is considered one of the most controversial subjects and is an extremely complex process that involves a lot of different factors at play.
People often tend to confuse the terms of euthanasia and assisted suicide. In euthanasia, a doctor is allowed by law to end the life of a person by painless means but both the patient and their family should agree too.
On the other hand, in assisted suicide, a doctor assists a patient to commit suicide but the patient should request them and the doctor cannot offer the option to the patient first.
Euthanasia is classified into different categories and the distinct terms are:
- Voluntary euthanasia- In this condition, euthanasia is conducted with the consent of the patient.
- Non-voluntary euthanasia- In this condition, the affected person is unable to provide consent due to their health condition and another appropriate person on behalf of the patient provides the consent for euthanasia.
Apart from the above-mentioned categories, there is also the distinction of involuntary euthanasia where euthanasia is performed against a person’s will and this scenario is considered murder.
There are differences in the procedures too. Euthanasia is generally performed in two ways:
- Passive euthanasia- Here, life-sustaining treatments are withheld. Generally, strong doses of painkillers like opioids are administered to the affected which eventually becomes toxic for the patient.
- Active euthanasia- In this condition, lethal substances are forced upon the affected to end the life of the patient.
Active euthanasia is considered illegal in most countries and is also deemed murderous by some.
Which are the countries where euthanasia is legalized?
On Thursday, Spain became the sixth country to pass the euthanasia law and legalize assisted suicide. The law was passed in the parliament by a vote of 202-141. And the law is said to allow adults with serious and incurable diseases that cause unbearable suffering to them, the choice of ending their lives. The law is said to come into effect from June.
And listed down below are the rest of the countries where the euthanasia law has been passed and legalized:
1. The Netherlands
The Netherlands was the first country to legalize euthanasia in April 2002. A strict set of conditions were imposed on the patients who wanted to commit assisted suicide. The patient must be suffering from unbearable pain, the illness has to be incurable and the patient while making the demand should be in ‘full consciousness’.
A child as young as 12 can request assisted dying but parental consent is required for teenagers below 16.
Very similar to the Netherlands, Belgium allows euthanasia for those patients with unbearable suffering and who have no prospect of improvement. However, if the patient is not terminally ill, a one-month waiting period is required for euthanasia to be performed.
There are no age restrictions for children but they should have the criteria of terminal illness for approval.
Patients must have an incurable condition with constant, intolerable suffering and there should be no prospects of improvement and both assisted suicides and euthanasia is legal for adults.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are allowed for adults who are suffering from “grievous and irremediable conditions” and whose death can be foreseeable.
There is an independent committee that has been set up for approving the request of assisted dying and terminally ill patients can request voluntary euthanasia in Colombia.
Australia passed the voluntary euthanasia laws in November 2017 where a person to qualify for legal approval, must be a resident of Victoria, an adult with decision-making capacity, should be suffering from intolerable conditions due to an illness and should have a life expectancy of fewer than six months. It is also applicable for patients suffering from neuro-degenerative illness.
In India, active euthanasia which includes administering an injection to the affection is illegal. However, the law of passive euthanasia got passed in March 2011 after the Aruna Shanbaug case. The Supreme Court led the conditions that passive euthanasia can only be permitted in cases of brain-dead patients and for those who are suffering in a persistent vegetative state.
Controversies regarding the Euthanasia law
Spain legalizing euthanasia in its country again brought the controversial euthanasia law into the limelight.
The euthanasia law might be welcomed by many, however, there are certain groups in the society that deem euthanasia as a sin. For them, the choice of life and death cannot be decided by the government and higher authorities and it is a crime to help someone to die.
Euthanasia has always been the topic of debate as it has continued to swing back and forth between right and wrong. People supporting euthanasia have said that every person has the right to die with dignity and a person who is in a vegetative state or who has been suffering terribly from pain and misery should be allowed the choice of a painless death over their horrifying agony.
However, people against the euthanasia law claim that euthanasia is a form of murder and is morally unacceptable since it always involves a person especially doctors, in this case, to aid in ending the life of another person.
We understand that choosing death over life can be an extremely difficult and emotive decision. We as human beings cannot bear the pain of losing a loved one but we also cannot withstand the agony and misery that a person withstands when suffering from terminally chronic ailments. And therefore, euthanasia will always be the topic that will trigger different emotions and opinions in different people.
In conclusion, we can say that the euthanasia law is a very complex process and therefore any country passing the judgment should set down a stringent set of rules and look into all the possible outcomes as it involves life and death for a person.