A question that also causes debate among our neighbors. While the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron announced this Sunday March 10 that a bill on “assisted dying” would arrive in Parliament next May, other European countries have already legislated on the subject.

In 2001, the Netherlands was the first in Europe to legalize active euthanasia. The latter is defined by the injection, by a third party, of a lethal product into a patient to cause their death in order to reduce their suffering. She is often subject to strict medical conditions. In the Dutch case, this act can only take place when the patient suffers from an incurable illness and makes their request in writing. In 2022, officials saw a jump in the practice: That year, euthanasia deaths accounted for nearly 1 in 20 people, the NL Times reports . The following year, the Netherlands this time authorized euthanasia for children under the age of 12 who suffer from an incurable illness and whose palliative care is deemed ineffective to provide sufficient relief to the patient.

Belgium, a border country, also decriminalized euthanasia in 2002. The request must be “voluntary, thoughtful, repeated”, “without external pressure”, according to a text promulgated on May 28, 2002. About ten years later , in 2014, Belgium even became the first country in the world to authorize euthanasia for minors with no age limit.

In 2009, Luxembourg decriminalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, which refers to killing oneself with the help of a person who provides a means to do so. Ditto in Spain, in 2021. On the Iberian Peninsula, the law provides that any adult person, residing in the country for at least 12 months and having “a serious and incurable illness” or “chronic” pain placing them in a situation of incapacity” has the right to request help from the medical profession to die and thus avoid “intolerable suffering”, reports AFP. Strict conditions govern the process, which must notably receive the green light from an evaluation commission. Assisted suicide is also legal there.

Portugal is the last country to have decriminalized euthanasia, in 2023, after long months of debate. A law governing “medically assisted death” was finally promulgated despite opposition from conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. It is authorized in the case where “medically assisted suicide is impossible due to the physical incapacity of the patient”, reports the site Tout l’Europe.

Also read: Are 96% of French people really in favor of euthanasia?

Other countries have this time legislated on passive euthanasia, defined by the cessation of treatment necessary to maintain life. This is particularly the case in France, which adopted a text on this subject (known as the “Leonetti law”) in 2005. For almost twenty years, the patient has been free to refuse treatment, even if the latter exposes him to it. at death, when he considers that there is unreasonable obstinacy. In 2016, the Claeys-Leonetti law established a right to “deep and continuous sedation” until the death of terminally ill people. And the situation is similar in Germany. Because although across the Rhine, active euthanasia is formally prohibited, patients can put an end to life-prolonging measures (ventilation for example). They may also receive pain treatments which can lead to early death.

In Denmark, active euthanasia and assisted suicide are prohibited. On the other hand, “several texts mention (passive) euthanasia without naming it, with the aim of limiting therapeutic relentlessness”, specifies the site Tout l’Europe.

Sweden, Estonia, Hungary, Greece and Croatia also allow the interruption of life extension measures. In the Hungarian case, “a medical committee must, however, rule on the admissibility of the request,” specifies Tout l’Europe. The same in Slovenia and Slovakia, where the patient must have clearly and freely expressed his wishes.

Switzerland, for its part, prohibits direct active euthanasia but allows passive euthanasia, to the extent that the law does not mention it. It also authorizes assisted suicide which is very regulated. The person must be an adult, capable of discernment, suffering from an incurable illness, intolerable suffering, or disabling polypathologies linked to age. However, a person can be prosecuted if they assist in the suicide of a third party when they are “driven by a selfish motive” such as the prospect of an inheritance, adds AFP.

Austria legalized, by a vote of Parliament in December 2021, assisted suicide for people suffering from a serious or incurable illness. This law came into force on January 1, 2022. The same in Germany but also in Italy, where “active euthanasia is still considered a crime and falls under the hypotheses provided for and punished by article 579 (murder of the consenting person) or article 580 (incitement or assistance to suicide) of the Penal Code,” reports Tout l’Europe.