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United States

The term "right to die" refers to various issues related to the decision of whether an individual who could continue to live with the aid of life support, or in a diminished or enfeebled capacity, should be allowed to die. In some cases, it refers to the idea that a person with a terminal illness and in serious condition should be allowed to commit suicide before death would otherwise occur. The concept is often referred to as dying with dignity. The question of who–if anyone–should be empowered to make these decisions is often central to the debate.

Legal documents

Most often, the idea of the right to die is related to a person's wish that caregivers allow death—for example, by not providing life support or vital medication—under certain conditions when recovery is highly unlikely or impossible. It may also refer to issues regarding physician-assisted suicide. It may be called passive euthanasia in cases where the patient is unable to make decisions about treatment. Living wills and Do Not Resuscitate orders are legal instruments that make a patient's treatment decisions known ahead of time; allowing a patient to die based on such decisions is not considered to be euthanasia. Usually these patients have also made explicit their wish to receive only palliative care to reduce pain and suffering.

Although specialized legal instruments differ from place to place, there are two more that are important in this context. The Five Wishes document allows a person to state in advance the priorities and values they wish to have honored at the end of life. And the Medical Durable Power of Attorney (or MDPOA) designates an agent to make decisions in case of incapacity, and can be used to give written guidance regarding end of life decision making. The MDPOA is generally considered to be the most powerful of all such instruments. All others may require interpretation on the part of health care providers or even court-appointed guardians; the MDPOA takes the job of interpretation out of the hands of strangers and gives it to a person selected and trusted by the individual.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands legalized voluntary euthanasia in 2001 and is one of the few countries in the world to have done so.

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. 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 and in considerable pain. Helping somebody to commit suicide without meeting the qualifications of the current Dutch euthanasia law is illegal [1] [2] [3].

See also

References

  1. ^ "'Right to die' for elderly back at centre of Dutch debate"
  2. ^ " Citizens group argues 'right to die' - A citizens action group wants to legalise assisted suicide for all people over 70"
  3. ^ (Dutch)"70-plus eist zachte dood"

Further reading

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