Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Posted on July 13 2012

Assisted euthanasia is a controversial topic that challenges ideals in society and has both supporters and opponents in the argument. It is viewed as taboo and also as being unethical or inhumane when dealing with the human population. There are two forms of this practice:  one, specifically called “euthanasia,” is performed by a doctor to administer doses of paralyzing medications or barbiturates; the other, called “assisted suicide,” is where a doctor or medical professional will supply the necessary medications, but the actual act is done by the patient themselves.

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize assisted euthanasia and assisted suicide. The nation's law specifically states that the only people who can utilize this option are those that are terminally ill and face low-quality of life with incredible pain before the afflicted illness ultimately wins out.

The concern with many euthanasia laws is that the practice will eventually lead in to assisting anyone who wants to die. A recent report out of the Netherlands, now in its 10th year of permitting assisted euthanasia and assisted suicide, show that prior to the law the assisted suicide rate was between 1.9 and 2.8. Now, after 10 years of legally being able to assist a terminally ill patient’s exit, the numbers are still plateaued at the same level.

These cases all reflect patient consented euthanasia and have helped with accurate reporting of these incidents, due to the practice becoming legal. It remains illegal to euthanize a patient without their consent, regardless of their condition. While this is rare, it does happen. Through the 10 years of statistics, it was found that out of 7,000 total assisted suicide and euthanasia cases only 13 were performed without consent of the patient.

Today, there is a new form of euthanasia emerging which is generally reserved for cancer patients in the end stages of the disease. It is called CDS (Continuous Deep Sedation) and allows patients to be given high dosages of sedatives that will keep them in a deep sleep for a number of days before they pass on. CDS is a growing manner of euthanasia as it relieves pain and does not actually shock the body as a true overdose will do. It calmly allows the body to be relaxed and then let go. This method is becoming known as "slow euthanasia." The numbers of this particular form are on the rise, but when combined with other methods, the total number of performed procedures in the Netherlands, as reflected in report statistics, still remain the same.

With more countries working on legislation to figure out what is the best choice for their nation, these statistics provide valuable importance in weighing the issues. They also provide a numerical portrait of what drastic changes in laws and rules regarding mortality will project to their communities. The issues of assisted euthanasia or assisted suicide will forever be a debate, regardless of whether laws are passed. However, with the first nation in the world to allow this practice reporting that there has been no increase or decline in the rate of assisted euthanasia, it is at least promising that there is no definitive evidence of the abuse of this system.

Sources: U.S. News Health Day - The Telegraph – U.K. Los Angeles Times – World News


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