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Monday, March 20, 2017

Euthanasia, Physician-Assisted Suicide Update (Research, Video 2:07)

Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide continue to become legalized in various countries. Whether individuals agree or disagree with these practices, it is important that healthcare communities stay informed about them and how they are perceived by the public.

In this euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide research, polling data and published surveys of the public and physicians, official state and country databases, interview studies with physicians, and death certificate studies were reviewed for the period 1947 to 2016 with these results:

1) Euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide can be legally practiced in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, and Canada (Quebec since 2014, nationally as of June 2016).

2) Physician-assisted suicide, excluding euthanasia, is legal in 5 US states (Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and California) and Switzerland.

3) Public support for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the United States has plateaued since the 1990s (range, 47%-69%).

4) In Western Europe, increasing and strong public support for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide has been reported. In Central and Eastern Europe, support is decreasing.

5) In the United States, fewer than 20% of physicians report having received requests for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, and 5% or fewer have complied.

6) In Oregon and Washington state, fewer than 1% of licensed physicians write prescriptions for physician-assisted suicide per year.

7) In the Netherlands and Belgium, about half or more of physicians reported ever having received a request; 60% of Dutch physicians have ever granted such requests.

8) Between 0.3% to 4.6% of all deaths are reported as euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide in jurisdictions where they are legal. The frequency of these deaths increased after legalization.

9) More than 70% of cases involved patients with cancer.

10) Typical patients are older, white, and well-educated.

11) Pain is mostly not reported as the primary motivation.

12) In no jurisdiction was there evidence that vulnerable patients have been receiving euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide at rates higher than those in the general population.

13) Most patients receiving physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, Washington, and Belgium reported being enrolled in hospice or palliative care.


From these findings, we can conclude that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide primarily involve patients with cancer and that the existing data on these practices do not indicate they are widely abused. The following video presents a more visual and detailed review of these findings:



Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.