The word euthanasia comes from the Greek word euthanatos, which means ‘easy death’. It describes the process of intentionally terminating a very ill person’s life to reduce their pain and suffering. While euthanasia is usually sought by those that are suffering excruciating pain, it is not the only reason. For example, changes in their quality of life caused by physical damage, and psychological factors commonly associated with incurable diseases are also referred to.

A distinction is drawn between active euthanasia (doing something to assist someone to die) and passive euthanasia (letting a person die, rather than intervening to save a life). The latter practice is effectively legal in many countries. The real controversy surrounds active euthanasia.

Is Euthanasia a globally recognised human right?

No, the right to assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia is not a globally recognised human right. While we have a right to life, the opposite (a right to death) is not recognised at the international level.

Is it allowed anywhere?

Euthanasia is currently legal in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, whereas assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, and the US States of Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana. The current status of euthanasia in Colombia is unclear, with domestic court decisions supportive of the right but no legislation yet enacted.

Interactive world map showcasing where euthanasia is legal.


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