We should aim at improving the care of dying patients
Modern debates about legalising euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in Great Britain and the United States began in the late 19th century.1 Legislation was periodically proposed only to be defeated until, in 1942, Switzerland decriminalised assistance in suicide for cases when there were no “selfish motives”.2 In 2002, euthanasia was legalised in the Netherlands and Belgium, then in Luxembourg in 2009, and most recently, in 2015 in Colombia and in 2016 in Canada.3 PAS, but not euthanasia, has been legalised in five US states. In Oregon, PAS was legalised by popular referendum in 1997. In addition, in 2009, Washington State legalised PAS by referendum and Montana by court ruling; Vermont in 2013 and California in 2015 also legalised PAS by legislation.4
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- 2. Hurst SA, Mauron A. Assisted suicide and euthanasia in Switzerland: allowing a role for non-physicians. BMJ 2003; 326: 271-273.
- 3. Deliens L, van der Wal G. The euthanasia law in Belgium and the Netherlands. Lancet 2003; 362: 1239-1240.
- 4. Emanuel EJ, Onwuteaka-Philipsen BD, Urwin JW, Cohen J. Attitudes and practices of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the United States, Canada and Europe. JAMA 2016; 316: 79-90.
- 5. Onwuteaka-Philipsen BD, Brinkman-Stoppelenburg A, Penning C, et al. Trends in end-of-life practices before and after the enactment of the euthanasia law in the Netherlands from 1990 to 2010: a repeated cross-sectional survey. Lancet 2012; 380: 908-915.
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- 7. Oregon Public Health Division. Oregon Death with Dignity Act annual reports, 1999–2016. Oregon Health Authority; 2016. https://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Pages/ar-index.aspx (accessed Mar 2017).
- 8. Washington State Department of Health. 2014 Death with Dignity Act report: executive summary. Washington, DC: DOH; 2015. http://www.doh.wa.gov/portals/1/Documents/Pubs/422-109-DeathWithDignityAct2014.pdf (accessed Mar 2017).
- 9. Emanuel EJ, Fairclough DL, Daniels ER, Clarridge BR. Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: attitudes and experiences of oncology patients, oncologists and the public. Lancet 1996; 347: 1805-1810.
- 10. Kissane DW, Street A, Nitschke P. Seven deaths in Darwin: case studies under the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, Northern Territory, Australia. Lancet 1998; 352: 1097-1102.
- 11. van der Lee ML, van der Bom JG, Swarte NB, et al. Euthanasia and depression: a prospective cohort study among terminally ill cancer patients. J Clin Oncol 2005; 23: 6607-6612.
- 12. Groenewoud JH, van der Heide A, Onwuteaka-Philipsen BD, et al. Clinical problems with the performance of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the Netherlands. N Engl J Med 2000; 342: 551-556.
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