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Report No. 196

Euthanasia however permitted in a few countries:

Only one or two States across the world have legalized Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide. Netherlands became the first country to legalise Euthanasia on April 10, 2001. Active Euthanasia and assisted suicide became part of Dutch medical procedures, though controlled by regulations and limitations. The law there gives importance to individual autonomy and freedom of choice when faced with the prospect of a life marked by suffering or deprived of hope.

The legislature in those countries allows patients experiencing unbearable suffering to request euthanasia, and doctors who carry out such mercy killing are to be free from threats of prosecution, provided they have followed the strict procedure. Request to die must be voluntary and after full consideration, and doctor and patient must be convinced that there is no other solution. A second medical opinion must be obtained and life must be ended in a medically appropriate way.

Belgium soon followed Netherlands by enacting a law w.e.f. 23rd September, 2002, permitting Euthanasia. While the Criminal Code remained the same, euthanasia is permitted subject to prescribed conditions. Euthanasia is described under the new law as 'an act on purpose, performed by a third person, in order to end the life of a person who has requested for this act'. (i.e. it is voluntary active euthanasia). Under the law, only a doctor is permitted to perform euthanasia. Euthanasia is permitted when:

(i) the patient is an adult or an emancipated minor, capable and conscious at the time of his/her request;

(ii)the request is made voluntarily, is well thought out and reiterated, and is not the result of outside pressure;

(iii)the patient is in a hopeless medical condition and he complains of constant and unbearable physical or mental pain which cannot be relieved, and

(iv)he or she has complied with the conditions prescribed by the new law.

There is a long list of obligations of the doctor in regard to what the parties should be informed, and it is stated that patient's will must be free, the doctor must be sure about the suffering, a second independent doctor must be consulted, there must be discussion with family members and the doctor must even consult a psychiatrist. The physician has to declare his decision before a federal commission composed of eight physicians, four jurists, and four others.

The Northern Territory in Australia made a law for voluntary euthanasia in 1996 but the same became unenforceable after the Federal Parliament passed the Rights of Terminally Ill Act, 1998 on 27 th March, 1998.

Medical Treatment to Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Back

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