Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are prohibited in most countries worldwide. However, end-of-life debates tend to occur more in North America, Europe, and Australia than they do in Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East, although there are exceptions to this trend.
The following chart displays the legal status of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in countries around the world, in alphabetical order by country. Although not exhaustive, the chart singles out countries where the topics of euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently debated. In addition, the chart provides information on current events affecting the euthanasia debate in these select countries.
Euthanasia: Illegal (legalized in the Northern Territory in 1995 and overturned in 1997)
Physician-Assisted Suicide: Illegal
"Ten years ago today [Sep. 22, 2006] in the Northern Territory, a cancer sufferer named Bob Dent became the first person to end his life under the world's first voluntary euthanasia legislation.
Six months later, in March, 1997, the Federal Government overturned the laws.
To mark the anniversary of Bob Dent's death, 200 people marched through Sydney today, calling on politicians to reintroduce right-to-die laws." Lindy Kerin "PM - Euthanasia Anniversary Marked in Sydney," ABC Online, Sep. 22, 2006
"A leading Catholic official in Belgium is speaking out against expanding legalized assisted suicide in the European nation...
Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels says he and the Catholic Church are opposed to expanding legalized assisted suicide to include children and mentally disabled patients who can't make their own medical decisions." Steven Ertelt "Belgium Catholic Cardinal Opposes Expanding Assisted Suicide Law," LifeNews.com, Jan. 15, 2007
"On June 15, 2005, Francine Lalonde, a lawmaker from La Pointe-de-l'Ile, introduced Bill C-407. The measure would have permitted a medical practitioner or someone assisted by a medical practitioner to aid another person to die if that person has a terminal illness or is experiencing severe physical or mental pain and 'appears to be lucid' when he/she requests death. The measure failed to gain support." Euthanasia.com "Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide in Canada" (accessed on Jan. 24, 2007)
Euthanasia: Unclear (approved by the Constitutional Court in 1997 but never ratified by Congress)
Physician-Assisted Suicide: Illegal
"In Colombia, euthanasia became permissible in 1997 when the highest judicial body, the Constitutional Court, ruled 6-3 that an individual may choose to end his life and that doctors can't be prosecuted for their role in helping...
Carlos Gaviria, the judge who wrote the court's majority ruling, is now a senator, and he plans to submit a bill to Congress to regulate the practice…
Gaviria said he will submit a bill to the present legislative session establishing guidelines similar to those in the Netherlands and Belgium, where doctors must seek second opinions, give patients rigorous mental tests before inducing death, and have cases reviewed by government commissions...
The issue has received little public attention in Colombia, but Gaviria's bill is expected to change that. Colombians are evenly split on the subject, with 45 percent in favor of inducing death in terminal cases and 46.9 percent against, according to a Yanhaas poll for RCN radio. The poll, released in March , had a 4 percent margin of error." Kim Housego "Euthanasia Regularly Practiced in Colombia," Associated Press, July 31, 2005
"The decision by Dignitas, the Swiss assisted suicide organisation, to open their first office abroad in Hanover, Lower Saxony, in September this year has provoked fierce controversy in Germany. The branch will provide information and advice to people wanting to commit suicide but will not actually provide any drugs for the purpose, unlike the organisation's head office in Switzerland...
Public and political reactions to the opening of a German branch of Dignitas has not been uniformly hostile, however. The German Society for Dying with Dignity, which has 35,000 members, welcomed Dignitas' decision to open a branch. Two opinion polls also showed that about a third of the German population was in favour of active euthanasia and assisted suicide in the case of terminal illness. An even greater proportion, more than half, wanted to see an improvement in palliative care and a strengthening of the hospice movement...
Germany's doctors are uniformly opposed to the move by Dignitas, however." Annette Tuffs, MD "Assisted Suicide Organisation Opens Branch in Germany," British Medical Journal, Oct. 29, 2005
"Kaila Devi Hirawat is killing herself slowly, starving her way to salvation as her neighbors and family members watch.
Hirawat, 93, a frail, birdlike woman, has eaten nothing in more than a month, attempting to free her soul from its bad deeds, part of the Jain religious tradition that says fasting can lead to nirvana...
Her fast has landed her in the middle of a controversy pitting the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Indian Constitution against a law banning suicide. Human-rights activists sued last month to have such fasts declared illegal. Jain leaders, a powerful group in India, say the constitution protects the fasts and people have the right to decide to die with dignity.
The argument also has led to a debate of sorts over the right-to-die issue in India, where euthanasia is banned and suicide is a crime. People who try to kill themselves are jailed." Kim Barker "Jain Leaders Challenge Law Banning Suicide in India," Chicago Tribune, Oct. 14, 2006
"On December 15  - after eight years of preparation and a year after it was approved by the Knesset - the law relating to dying patients will take effect, enabling people of all ages to submit forms to the Health Ministry declaring how they would like to be treated if they became terminally ill.The provisions of the law were approved by leading clergymen representing all major religions before it was approved…
The law, initiated by the government on the basis of the recommendations of the Steinberg Committee - which met for six years on the sensitive subject - was passed on December 1, 2005. The recommendations were prepared by the 59-member public committee comprising physicians, scientists, medical ethicists, social workers, philosophers, nurses, lawyers, judges and clergymen representing the main religions in Israel…
Active euthanasia will continue to be forbidden. However, individuals will be able to set down in advance that they do not want to be attached to a respirator when they are dying or that, if a respirator is attached, it would include a delayed-response timer that can turn itself off automatically at a pre-set time." Judy Siegel-Itzkovich "Death With Dignity to Be Allowed from Next Month," The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 12, 2006
"An Italian doctor has said he has switched off the life support system of a terminally ill man, who lost a legal battle for the right to die.
Dr. Mario Riccio, who disconnected the respirator, said he had fulfilled the patient's legal right to refuse treatment. He denied it was euthanasia.
Piergiorgio Welby, 60, was paralyzed by muscular dystrophy.
His plea for euthanasia -- illegal in mainly Roman Catholic Italy -- sparked a landmark court case and fierce debate...
A judge ruled on Saturday that while Mr. Welby had the constitutional right to have his life support machine switched off, doctors would be legally obliged to resuscitate him." BBC "Doctor 'Helps Italian Man to Die'," Dec. 21, 2006
Euthanasia: Unclear (Illegal in the Japanese criminal code, but a 1962 court case, the "Nagoya High Court Decision of 1962," ruled that one can legally end a patient's life if 6 specific conditions are fulfilled)
Physician-Assisted Suicide: Illegal
"The Japan Society for Dying with Dignity is the largest right-to-die group in the world with more than 100,000 paid up members. Currently, the Society feels it wise to campaign only for passive euthanasia -- good advance directives about terminal care, and no futile treatment. Voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide are rarely talked about..." Derek Humphry "Tread Carefully When You Help to Die: Assisted Suicide Laws around the World," www.assistedsuicide.org (accessed July 24, 2007)
Physician-Assisted Suicide: Legal since Feb. 19, 2008
"Luxembourg parliament adopted a law late on Tuesday [Feb. 19, 2008] to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide...
The law, expected to come into force towards the summer, was passed by 30 votes to 26. Luxembourg's media said it was a symbolic defeat for Prime Minister Jean-Claude Junker whose Christian Social Party opposed it...
Euthanasia would be allowed for the terminally ill and those with incurable diseases or conditions, only when they asked to die repeatedly and with the consent of two doctors and a panel of experts." Reuters "Luxembourg Parliament Adopts Euthanasia Law," www.reuters.com, Feb. 20, 2008
"Two physicians practicing in the Netherlands, the very heart of civilized Europe, this spring published in The New England Journal of Medicine a set of guidelines for what they called infant 'euthanasia.' The authors named their guidelines the Groningen protocol, after the city where they work. One of the physicians, Dr. Eduard Verhagen, has admitted to presiding over the killing of four babies in the last three years, by means of a lethal intravenous drip of morphine and midazolam (a sleeping agent). While Verhagen's actions were illegal under Dutch law, he hasn't been prosecuted for them; and if his guidelines were to be accepted, they could establish a legal basis for his death-administering work." Jim Holt "Euthanasia for Babies?," New York Times Magazine, July 10, 2005
"In Russia, euthanasia is illegal, period. But courts have been sympathetic to people charged with helping others die. Two women in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don were found guilty last year of murdering Natalya Barranikova -- even though the court accepted that the paralyzed victim had asked them to kill her -- because the law is clear. But the defendants were given unexpectedly light sentences." Peter Ford "World Divided on Ethics of Terri Schiavo Case," Christian Science Monitor, Mar. 25, 2005
"Euthanasia is illegal in Spain and people who help someone else die can be punished with at least six months in prison. But Spain's Socialist government wants to legalize it as aprt of a wave of liberal reforms that have largely transformed this traditionally Roman Catholic country." Maria Sanminiatelli "Euthanasia Advocate's Wish Fulfilled," Associated Press, Dec. 22, 2006
Physician-Assisted Suicide: Legal since Jan. 1, 1942
"Switzerland's laws that prohibit killing continue to apply in full. Direct, active euthanasia (deliberate killing in order to end the suffering of another person) is therefore also forbidden. By contrast, both indirect, active euthanasia (the use of means having side-effects that may shorten life) and passive euthanasia (rejecting or discontinuing life-prolonging measures) - while not governed by any specific statutory provisions - are not treated as criminal offences provided certain conditions are fulfilled. No legislative action is needed with regard to these three forms of euthanasia. Legal restrictions and a ban on organised assisted suicide are nonetheless open to debate." Federal Office of Justice of Switzerland "Euthanasia," www.bj.admin.ch (accessed Feb. 24, 2010)
"The progress of a controversial bill which would allow terminally ill people to be helped to die has been blocked by the House of Lords.
Lord Joffe's bill would give doctors the right to prescribe drugs that a terminally ill patient in severe pain could use to end their own life.
But peers backed an amendment to delay the bill by six months by 48 votes.
Lord Joffe said the move was intended to end the debate, but pledged to reintroduce his bill at a later date...
Opponents to the bill submitted a petition signed by 100,000 people to Downing Street, and demonstrated outside Parliament...
Mark Slattery, of the charity Dignity in Dying, formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia, said the campaign to introduce an assisted dying bill would continue." BBC "Lords Block Assisted Dying Bill," May 12, 2006