right to die

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right to die
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{{Other uses}}{{Suicide sidebar}} The right to die is a concept based on the opinion that a human being is entitled to end their own life or to undergo voluntary euthanasia. Possession of this right is often understood to mean that a person with a terminal illness, or without the will to continue living, should be allowed to end their own life or to use assisted suicide or to decline life-prolonging treatment. The question of whom, if anyone, should be empowered to make this decision is often central to debate.Some academics and philosophers, such as David Benatar, consider humans to be overly optimistic in their view of the quality of their lives, and in their view of the balance between the positive and the negative aspects of living. This can be considered in terms of antinatalism and the lack of agency regarding one’s own birth and who should have authority over one’s choice to live or die.Proponents typically associate the right to die with the idea that one's body and one's life are one's own, to dispose of as one sees fit. However, a legitimate state interest in preventing irrational suicides is sometimes argued. Pilpel and Amsel write: Contemporary proponents of "rational suicide" or the "right to die" usually demand by "rationality" that the decision to kill oneself be both the autonomous choice of the agent (i.e., not due to the physician or the family pressuring them to "do the right thing" and commit suicide) and a "best option under the circumstances" choice desired by the stoics or utilitarians, as well as other natural conditions such as the choice being stable, not an impulsive decision, not due to mental illness, achieved after due deliberation, etc.WEB, What is Wrong with Rational Suicide, A Pilpel, L Amsel,weblink {{inconsistent citations, }}Hinduism accepts the right to die for those who are tormented by terminal diseases or those who have no desire, ambition or no responsibilities remaining; and allows death through the non-violent practice of fasting to the point of starvation (Prayopavesa).WEB,weblink Hinduism — Euthanasia and Suicide, 2009-08-25, BBC, Jainism has a similar practice named Santhara. Other religious views on suicide vary in their tolerance, and include denial of the right as well as condemnation of the act. In the Catholic faith, suicide is considered a grave sin.WEB,weblink Catholic Digest - The Magazine for Catholic Living - Do people who commit suicide go to hell?, 14 December 2014, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 19 December 2014,


There is a question in ethics as to whether or not a right to die can coexist with a right to life. If, it is argued, the right to life is inalienable, it cannot be surrendered, and therefore may be incompatible with a right to die.Feinberg, Joel. (April 1, 1977). "Voluntary Euthanasia and the Inalienable Right to Life", The Tanner Lecture on Human Values, The University of Michigan. Retrieved June 20, 2018. A second debate exists within bioethics over whether the right to die is universal, only applies under certain circumstances (such as terminal illness), or if it exists. It is also stated that 'right to live' is not synonymous to 'obligation to live'. From that point of view, the right to live can coexist with the right to die.{{nl}} Humanistisch Verbond: 'Recht op leven, plicht tot leven' (translated: Dutch Humanist Association: 'Right to live, obligation to live')A court in the American state of Montana, for example, has found that the right to die applies to those with life-threatening medical conditions. Suicide advocate Ludwig Minelli, euthanasia expert Sean W. Asher and bioethics professor Jacob M. Appel, in contrast, argue that all competent people have a right to end their own lives. Appel has suggested that the right to die is a test for the overall freedom of a given society.NEWS,weblink Next: Assisted Suicide for Healthy People, The Huffington Post, 14 December 2014, 16 July 2009, The 1991 Patient Self-Determination Act passed by the US Congress at the request of the financial arm of Medicare does permit elderly Medicare/Medicaid patients (and by implication, all "terminal" patients) to prepare an advance directive in which they elect or choose to refuse life-extending and/or life-saving treatments as a means of shortening their lives to shorten their suffering unto certain death. The treatment refused in an advance directive under US law, because of the 1991 PSDA, does not have to be proved to be "medically futile" under some existing due-process procedure developed under state laws, such as TADA in Texas.{{citation needed|date=December 2013}}

By country

{{See-also|Voluntary euthanasia#By country}}As of June 2016, some forms of voluntary euthanasia are legal in Canada, Colombia, Belgium,NEWS,weblink Euthanasia and the law, BBC News, 23 December 2002, Ursula, Smartt, Luxembourg,WEB,weblink Euthanasia & Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) around the World - Euthanasia -, 2016-07-20,, 2017-04-19, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.


As of August 2011 a British Columbia Supreme Court judge had been requested to speed up a right-to die lawsuit so that Gloria Taylor could have a doctor assist her in committing suicide. She suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease.NEWS,weblink B.C. court asked to fast-track right-to-die lawsuit, 2 August 2011, 14 December 2014, CBC News, She died of an infection in 2012.A British Columbia civil liberties lawsuit is representing six plaintiffs and challenges the laws that make it a criminal offence to assist seriously and incurably ill individuals to die with dignity.{{citation needed|date=October 2015}}On 6 February 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that denying the right to assisted suicide is unconstitutional. The court’s ruling limits physician-assisted suicides to “a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life and has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability, that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.” The ruling was suspended for 12 months to allow the Canadian parliament to draft a new, constitutional law to replace the existing one.Supreme Court rules Canadians have right to doctor-assisted suicide Sean Fine, Globe and Mail 6 Feb. 2015The court decision includes a requirement that there must be stringent limits that are “scrupulously monitored.” This will require the death certificate to be completed by an independent medical examiner, not the treating physician, to ensure the accuracy of reporting the cause of death.NEWS,weblink Assisted dying: Four problems, one simple solution, Guichon, Alakija, Doig, Mitchell and Thibeault, 28 December 2015, Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada, 2 January 2016, The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) reported that not all doctors were willing to help a patient die. However, the belief in late 2015 was that no physician would be forced to do so but the CMA was offering educational sessions to members as to the process that would be used.WEB,weblink Canadian doctors express mixed opinions on assisted dying, 27 December 2015, CTV News, Bell Media, 2 January 2016, The Canadian Press, On 17 June 2016, legislation passed both houses of the Parliament of Canada and received Royal Assent to allow euthanasia within Canada.WEB,weblink Canada legalises euthanasia for the terminally ill, Keane, Rebecca, 20 June 2016,, Maximum Media; Dublin, Ireland, 22 June 2016, WEB,weblink Assisted dying to become law after Senate backs Liberals' bill, MacCharles, Tonda, 17 June 2016,, Toronto Star, 16 July 2016,


On 20 May 1997, the Constitutional Court of Colombia decriminalised piety homicide, for terminally ill patients, stating that "the medical author cannot be held responsible for the assisted suicide of a terminally ill patient" and urged Congress to regulate euthanasia "in the shortest time possible".WEB,weblink REPÚBLICA DE COLOMBIA Corte Constitucional Sentencia No. C-239/97, Constitutional Court of Colombia, 20 May 1997, 24 November 2016, (in Spanish)On 15 December 2014, the Constitutional Court had given the Ministry of Health and Social Protection 30 days to publish guidelines for the healthcare sector to use in order to guarantee terminated ill patients, with the wish to undergo euthanasia, their right to a dignified death.WEB,weblink Los principios para regular la eutanasia,, 19 February 2015, Redacción Salud, Spanish,


The Netherlands legalized voluntary euthanasia in 2001 and is one of the few countries in the world to have done so. Under current Dutch law, euthanasia by doctors is only legal in cases of "hopeless and unbearable" suffering. In practice this means that it is limited to those suffering from serious medical conditions (including mental illness) and in considerable suffering like pain, hypoxia or exhaustion. Helping somebody to commit suicide without meeting the qualifications of the current Dutch euthanasia law is illegal.JOURNAL, Buiting H, van Delden J, Onwuteaka-Philpsen B, etal, Reporting of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the Netherlands: descriptive study, BMC Med Ethics, 10, 18, 2009, 19860873, 2781018, 10.1186/1472-6939-10-18, These criteria concern the patient's request, the patient's suffering (unbearable and hopeless), the information provided to the patient, the absence of reasonable alternatives, consultation of another physician and the applied method of ending life.In February 2010 a citizens' initiative called Uit Vrije Wil (Out of Free Will) further demanded that all Dutch people over 70 who feel tired of life should have the right to professional help in ending it. The organization, initiated by Milly van Stiphout and Yvonne van Baarle, started collecting signatures in support of this proposed change in Dutch legislation. A number of prominent Dutch citizens supported the initiative, including former ministers and artists, legal scholars and physicians. Among them were former politicians Frits Bolkestein, Hedy d'Ancona and Jan Terlouw, as well as television personality Mies Bouwman.WEB,weblink Citizens group argues 'right to die', 14 December 2014, WEB,weblink 'Right to die' for elderly back at centre of Dutch debate, 14 December 2014, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 3 March 2014, WEB,weblink 70-plus eist zachte dood, Het Parool, 2007-02-10, Frans Bosman en Corrie Verkerk, nl, This initiative has never been legalised.

New Zealand

Euthanasia is illegal in New Zealand. In 2015, lawyer and cancer sufferer Lecretia Seales brought a case (Seales v Attorney-General) to the High Court to challenge New Zealand law for her right to die with the assistance of her GP, asking for a declaration that her GP would not risk conviction.NEWS, Lecretia Seales: Lawyer with cancer embarks on challenge to New Zealand's euthanasia laws,weblink 5 June 2015, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, NEWS,weblink Judge thanks woman for right-to-die case, 5 June 2015, Radio New Zealand,

United States

The term right to die has been interpreted in a number of ways, including issues of suicide, passive euthanasia, active euthanasia, assisted suicide, and physician-assisted suicide.WEB,weblink Due Process of Law, Justia Law, 17 February 2019, As the health of citizens is considered a police power left for individual states to regulate, it was not until 1997 that the US Supreme Court made a ruling on the issue of assisted suicide and one's right to die. That year, the Supreme Court heard two appeals arguing that New York and Washington statutes that made physician assisted suicide a felony violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendmentweblink In a unanimous vote, the Court held that there was no constitutional right to physician assisted suicide and upheld state bans on assisted suicide. While in New York this has maintained statutes banning physician assisted suicide, the Court's decision also left it open for other states to decide whether they would allow physician assisted suicide or not.Since 1994, five states in the US have passed assisted suicide laws: Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, and Colorado passed legislation in 1994, 2008, 2013, 2015, and 2016, respectively, that provides a protocol for the practice of physician assisted suicide.NEWS,weblink Time, Emily, Barone, See Which States Allow Assisted Suicide, 3 November 2014, The law in these five states allows terminally ill adult patients to seek lethal medication from their physicians. In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that nothing in state law prohibits physician-assisted suicide and provides legal protection for physicians in the case that they write a prescription for lethal medication upon patient request. In California, the governor signed a controversial physician assisted-suicide bill, the California End of Life Option Act, in October 2015 that passed during a special legislative session intended to address Medi-Cal fundingweblink after it had been defeated during the regular legislative session.WEB,weblink Assisted-death bill passes first Assembly committee, Alexei, Koseff, 17 February 2019, Sacramento Bee, Because the bill was passed during a special session, it did not take effect until June 2016.WEB,weblink How California's aid-in-dying law will work, Soumya, Karlamangla,, 17 February 2019, WEB,weblink Jerry Brown signs doctor-assisted death bill, David, Siders, Alexei, Koseff, 17 February 2019, Sacramento Bee, In early 2014, a New Mexico Second District Judge Nan Nash ruled that terminally ill patients have the right to aid in dying under the state constitution, i.e. making it legal for a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient.NEWS,weblink Los Angeles Times, Saba, Hamedy, New Mexico judge affirms right to 'aid in dying', 19 January 2014, The ultimate decision will be made with the outcome of New Mexico's Attorney General's appeal to the ruling.


Since 2018, the Supreme Court of India has legalised passive euthanasia in India during a case involving Aruna Shanbaug under strict conditions, namely that the patient's consent (or relatives) is needed, and that he/she must be in a terminally ill or vegetative state.

See also

{{Col-start}}{{col-break}}Initiatives Groups Films Books {{col-break}}Individuals {{col-break}}Other related {{col-end}}



Further reading

  • JOURNAL, 17761819, 2598200, 2007, Shaw, D, The body as unwarranted life support: A new perspective on euthanasia, Journal of Medical Ethics, 33, 9, 519–21, 10.1136/jme.2006.020073,
  • JOURNAL, 10.1353/hcr.2007.0035, Appel JM, A suicide right for the mentally ill? A Swiss case opens a new debate, Hastings Center Report, 37, 3, 21–3, May–June 2007, 17649899,
  • {{nl icon}} "Uit Vrije Wil — Burgerinitiatief voltooid leven"
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