Assisted suicide: Models of legal regulation in selected European countries and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights

Med Sci Law. 2015 Oct;55(4):246-58. doi: 10.1177/0025802414540636. Epub 2014 Aug 19.


This paper presents three different models of the legal regulation of assisted suicide in European countries. First, the current legal regime governing assisted suicide in the Netherlands is described where both euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legalised. This section also includes some empirical data on euthanasia and assisted-suicide practices in the Netherlands, as well as a comparison with the current legal legislation in Belgium and Luxembourg. Next, Switzerland is presented as a country where euthanasia is punishable by law but assisted suicide is legally allowed, provided it is not carried out with selfish motives. This section also focuses on the assisted-suicide-related case law of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Last, the current legal situation regarding assisted suicide in Austria and Germany is described. While the Austrian Penal Code explicitly prohibits assisted suicide, assistance with suicide is not specifically regulated by the German Penal Code. However, medical doctors are not allowed to assist suicides according to the professional codes of conduct drawn up by the German medical associations under the supervision of the health authorities.

Keywords: Human rights; law; legal system; medical law.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Europe
  • Euthanasia / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Human Rights / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Medical*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Suicide, Assisted / legislation & jurisprudence*