is dedicated to providing services related to advance
directives, including Living Wills which allow
you to specify your wishes regarding voluntary passive euthanasia. Below
are some questions and answers related to euthanasia.
What is euthanasia?
Euthanasia is the act of intentionally causing the death of a patient,
normally to relieve the patient's pain, suffering, or loss of quality of life.
To be considered euthanasia, the act must be performed by a third party. For
example, giving a patient a lethal injection would be considered euthanasia.
What is assisted suicide?
Assisted suicide is the act of intentionally causing the death of a person,
where the person themselves performs the last act which causes death to occur.
For example, if a person swallows an overdose of drugs that have been provided
by a doctor for the purpose of causing death, or if a patient pushes a switch to
trigger a fatal injection after the doctor has inserted an intravenous needle
into the patient's vein.
Is euthanasia legal?
The law is changing very rapidly with respect to euthanasia and assisted dying.
Legislation on euthanasia in most countries distinguishes between passive euthanasia
(withholding or withdrawing of life-preserving procedures including water and food)
and active euthanasia (intentionally killing a person to relieve pain).
In Canada, passive euthanasia has been legal for quite some time, but active euthanasia
was previously prohibited as a form of culpable homicide up until June 6th 2016 with
a Supreme Court decision (Carter v Canada). It ruled that adults with grievous and
irremediable medical conditions are entitled to physician-assisted suicide.
In the United States, while active euthanasia is illegal throughout the U.S., assisted suicide is legal in Oregon,
Washington, Vermont, California (effective from June 2016), one county in New Mexico, and is de facto legal in Montana.
In the United Kingdom, euthanasia and assisted dying are both illegal. Section 2 of the Suicide
Act 1961, as originally enacted, provided that it was an offence to "aid, abet, counsel or
procure the suicide of another" and that a person who committed this offence was liable to
imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years. That section was amended by the Coroners
and Justice Act 2009. Although it is an offence to assist a patient in committing suicide, many
doctors still assist their patients with their wishes by withholding treatment and reducing pain.
This, however, is only done when the doctors feel that death is a few days away and after
consulting patients, relatives or other doctors.
Does the law require that people be forced to stay alive?
No. Many people think that euthanasia or assisted suicide is needed so that
patients won't be forced to remain alive by being "hooked up to machines". But
the law already permits patients or their families to withhold or withdraw
unwanted medical treatment even if that increases the likelihood that the
patient will die. Thus, no one needs to be "hooked up to machines" against their
Furthermore, insisting against a patient's wishes that "everything be done"
to keep them alive is not required by law nor by medical ethics. There comes a
time when continued attempts to cure are not compassionate, wise, or medically
sound. That is the time when all efforts are normally directed to making the
patient's remaining time as comfortable as possible, including alleviating pain,
alleviating symptoms, and perhaps even leaving the hospital so that they may
spend the rest of their days in a more comfortable home environment.
These wishes are normally outlined in a living will, as provided by the
MyLivingWill™ service here at
Since suicide isn't against the law, why should it be illegal to help
someone commit suicide?
Neither suicide nor attempted suicide is criminalized anywhere in the United
States or in many other countries. This is not because of any "right" to
suicide. When penalties against attempted suicide were removed, legal scholars
made it clear that this was not done for the purpose of permitting suicide.
Instead it was intended to prevent suicide. Penalties were removed so people
could seek help in dealing with the problems they're facing without risk of
being prosecuted if it were discovered that they had attempted suicide.
Why should I create a Living Will or Advance Directives?
Most people die in hospitals and often this is after receiving treatment
administered in an effort to prolong a person's life. Medical staff are
duty bound to use everything within the powers of modern medicine to keep a
patient alive as long as possible, and within those powers there are regulations
to be followed. Medical staff are obliged to preserve a patient's life
without necessarily considering the financial or emotional concerns of the
patient and loved ones.
A Living Will gives you some say in the way you will be treated before you
die, in a situation where death is otherwise inevitable. This can be used
in two ways --- to put a swift end to intolerable suffering, or to endorse the
use of experimental treatment to try and save your life if at all possible.
When will a Living Will be used?
The most common use of a Living Will is to express your desire for a
voluntary passive euthanasia. Simply put, this means that medical staff
should not artificially preserve your life under specific circumstances which
are determined by you. In addition, your Living Will or "health care
directive" can express your views on the healthcare that you wish to receive if
you were ever in a permanent coma.
How do I create a Living Will?
The MyLivingWill™ service here at
will let you create and define a living will to handle the
above circumstances in accordance with your wishes, in the case where you are
unable to communicate your wishes yourself.