Euthanasia and related practices worldwide

Crisis. 1998;19(3):109-15. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910.19.3.109.

Abstract

The present paper examines the occurrence of matters relating to the ending of life, including active euthanasia, which is, technically speaking, illegal worldwide. Interest in this most controversial area is drawn from many varied sources, from legal and medical practitioners to religious and moral ethicists. In some countries, public interest has been mobilized into organizations that attempt to influence legislation relating to euthanasia. Despite the obvious international importance of euthanasia, very little is known about the extent of its practice, whether passive or active, voluntary or involuntary. This examination is based on questionnaires completed by 49 national representatives of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), dealing with legal and religious aspects of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, as well as suicide. A dichotomy between the law and medical practices relating to the end of life was uncovered by the results of the survey. In 12 of the 49 countries active euthanasia is said to occur while a general acceptance of passive euthanasia was reported to be widespread. Clearly, definition is crucial in making the distinction between active and passive euthanasia; otherwise, the entire concept may become distorted, and legal acceptance may become more widespread with the effect of broadening the category of individuals to whom euthanasia becomes an available option. The "slippery slope" argument is briefly considered.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Medical
  • Euthanasia / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Euthanasia / statistics & numerical data*
  • Euthanasia, Active*
  • Euthanasia, Active, Voluntary
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • International Agencies
  • Internationality*
  • Religion and Medicine
  • Suicide / prevention & control
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wedge Argument