Open regulation and practice in assisted dying

Swiss Med Wkly. 2002 Oct 12;132(37-38):527-34. doi: 10.4414/smw.2002.09794.


The Netherlands, Oregon and Switzerland are the only areas in the world where assistance in dying has legally been practised in recent years. This article provides a detailed comparison of the history of the origins, legislation, monitoring systems and the extent of assistance in dying in these three places. It shows that the actual practice in Switzerland which, unlike Oregon, also allows assistance in suicide by means of infusions or gastric tubes, can today be technically quite similar to the permitted practice of active euthanasia on request in the Netherlands. Considering the preconditions restricting these practices, Swiss regulations are the most open, in that the law requires neither a medical second opinion (as in both the Netherlands and Oregon) nor the existence of a terminal illness (as in Oregon) as prerequisite to assistance in dying. In 2001, the proportion of assisted deaths (as reported to the authorities) in all deaths was almost ten times higher in the Netherlands (1.5% of all deaths) then in Oregon (<0.1% of all deaths) or Switzerland (0.2% of all deaths). The analysis of the different normative concepts underlying legislation reveals that in the Netherlands the basis for non-prosecution lies in the conflict of the physician's duties to respect life versus relief of suffering, while in the USA and in Switzerland the right-to-die concept plays a major role. These two concepts allow appreciation of distinctions between the roles of the physician in end-of-life practices and between assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia.

MeSH terms

  • Euthanasia / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Netherlands
  • Oregon
  • Physician's Role
  • Right to Die / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Suicide, Assisted / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Switzerland
  • Terminally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence