Attitudes and Practices of Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide in the US, Canada and Europe

In JAMA, Ezekiel Emanuel and colleagues review the legal status as well as the available data and practices of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. This study gathers data from polling, published surveys of the public and physicians, official state and country databases, interview studies with physicians and death certificate studies from 1947 to 2016 to paint a thorough picture. The findings show that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide can be practiced in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, and Canada. Physician assisted suicide, excluding euthanasia, is legal in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, California and Switzerland. Public support for euthanasia has plateaued at 47-69% in the US and has been decreasing in Eastern Europe, but grows stronger in Western Europe. Between 0.3% and 4.6% of all deaths are reported as euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. The dominant motivations for requesting physician-assisted suicide include loss of autonomy and dignity, inability to enjoy life and regular activity and other forms of mental distress. All in all, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are increasingly being legalized, remain relatively rare, and are not abused.