Physician assisted suicide has been a controversial topic across the world, however as the reasoning behind it becomes better understood, many countries have chosen to legalize the practice for reasons outside of terminal illness. In the United States, in the past few decades, the public began to take notice with news headlines such as those regarding Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the Michigan physician who helped assist numerous patients chose when they would die from terminal illnesses and subsequently served eight years for his acts.
Today, physician assistance in dying is legal in Washington, Vermont, Montana, Oregon, with California recently signing in their aid in dying legislation in June 2016, Colorado approving a ballot measure in the most recent November 2016 election by two thirds majority, as well as the District of Columbia signing in their version of the same aid in dying law in December 2016. With a not so surprising passage of these laws comes the realization that Americans as a whole see the reasoning or at least themselves would want the option, in the circumstance they were to become terminally ill.
What is different with the United States’ various aid in dying laws in place is that they are all for those patients that are terminally ill, requiring certain validation steps through physicians and therapists.
Now, over 20% of Americans live in an area where, if they are terminally ill, it is legal for them to be evaluated to receive aid in dying, if they so desire. With this recent expansion, questions regarding the laws accessibility to all demographics has been more widely addressed; Colorado’s population is more than 20% Latino and over half of the residents of the District of Columbia are African American.
In other countries, such as The Netherlands, known as the first country to legalize assisted euthanasia, they are currently putting through new legislation to add those people who ‘feel they have completed life’ but are not necessarily considered ill. In 2015, almost 4% of their population accounted for death from assisted euthanasia.
There is an obvious overall widespread support for the amendment, and proponents of the bill ensure that death assistance providers will vet the patient and their medical background to properly determine if this is the right step for them.