The way assisted suicide is legalised: balancing a medical framework against a demedicalised model

Eur J Health Law. 2011 Mar;18(2):149-62. doi: 10.1163/157180911x565191.


To date, in three European countries and three American states--i.e., The Netherlands, Luxemburg, Switzerland, and the states of Oregon, Washington and Montana--it is permitted by law for one person to assist in the suicide of another person. When comparing the legislations of these countries/states, it becomes apparent that The Netherlands, Luxemburg, Oregon, Washington and Montana have chosen a medical approach (the so-called medical model), whereas the Swiss legal framework for assisted suicide is clearly a non-medical one (the demedicalised model). The differences between these two models mainly concern two aspects: the requirement as to the capacity of the person providing assistance in suicide and the condition regarding the state of health of the person committing suicide. A closer view on the practice of assisted suicide in the depenalising countries shows that the differences are smaller than initially thought. Nevertheless, important distinctions still remain. When analysing which model is most preferable, it is concluded that an involvement of a physician is inevitable and necessary and that the requirement of a certain medical condition is needed to set a clear and objective limit.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Physician's Role
  • Suicide, Assisted / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States