Factsheet: A look at legality of euthanasia across the globe

WION Web Team
Delhi, India Published: Mar 11, 2018, 05:09 AM(IST)

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra decided that passive euthanasia should be legalised in India. Photograph:( Others )

In its first, the Supreme Court approved passive euthanasia on Friday making it possible for terminally ill patients -- with no possibility of recovery -- to choose in advance whether or not they would want to be on artificial life support system or for how long. 

The term 'euthanasia' is loosely described to define the 'painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or an irreversible coma'. 

India, for over a decade, had been debating whether or not patients suffering from incurable terminal disease be given the right to say no to life support systems. 

While our country finally approves the protocol, we take a look at the legality of euthanasia in some of the countries across the globe. 

Also read: Know the difference between active and passive euthanasia

United States 

Euthanasia is not legal in the United States except from five states -- Washington DC, California, Colorado, Oregon and Vermont. These states allow assisted suicide which may involve a physician's assistance. Oregon was the first to approve assisted suicide in 1997. 


In 2002, the country became the first in the world to legalise euthanasia including physician-assisted euthanasia. According to a stringent set of guidelines issued by the government, a patient can be euthanised only when suffering from irrecoverable illness, experiencing unbearable pain. The demand must be made in full consciousness by the patient. 


The country legalised voluntary euthanasia in the year 2016 with an exception that only those who avail of Canada's health insurance facility can explore the option. 


The country was one of the firsts to legalise euthanasia. Belgium voted in favour of the protocol in May 2002 and extended the law to cover terminally ill children in December 2013 with a condition that the child must make a conscious request for euthanasia with a prior approval from the family and a certified medical team. The patient must be in great pain with no treatment to alleviate their illness.

South Korea

The country became one of the recent ones to vote in favour of active euthanasia. South Korea legalised the protocol in February 2018 describing it as a "Well-Dying" Bill. 


The Swedish government voted in favour of passive euthanasia in 2010. However, the administering of a lethal substance is still illegal in the country.


Euthanasia and assisted suicide in the country are against the law. However, President François Hollande has often spoken about the "right to die with dignity" but has never really expressed any intention to legalise the protocol.

Also read: Euthanasia debate - Key terms you need to know​​​​​​​

Back in India, many lauded the judgment including those who had previously advocated that Aruna Shanbaug -- a terminally ill nurse who remained in a vegetative state for 45 years -- should be given the right to die with dignity.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra decided that passive euthanasia should be legalised. 

"The apex court, however, had previously observed that there should be adequate safeguards. Implementation of 'living will' would be subject to medical board's certifying that the patient's comatose state is irreversible," PTI reported. 

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