7.7 Assisted Dying Around the World

two people holding hands in hospital, with one person lying in a bed in a gown under a blanket with a monitor on their index finger
Elderly couple holding hands in hospital.

In addition to Canada, a number of countries around the world have legalized some form of assisted dying, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, Australia, France, New Zealand, and parts of the USA (Roehr, 2021; Euthanasia, 2021). Each country has its own restrictions, rules, and regulations regarding when, how, and where assisted dying is permitted, as well as who is eligible to receive it (Roehr, 2021; Euthanasia, 2021). There is also a range of terms used to refer to the various processes tied to assisted dying.


Assisted Dying Terminology

Correct and accurate terms include: 

  • Physician-Assisted Death
  • Physician-Assisted Dying
  • Aid in Dying
  • Physician Aid in Dying
  • Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) (Most commonly used in Canada)
  • Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) (Most commonly used in Australia)

Inaccurate and outdated terms: 

  • Assisted Suicide
  • Doctor-Assisted Suicide
  • Physician-Assisted Suicide
  • (Active) Euthanasia

(Death with Dignity, n.d.-a; Glossary of Terms, n.d.; Ubel, 2013)

Click the link below to learn more
which countries permit assisted dying:

Assisted Dying Around the World

Switzerland & “Suicide Tourism 

Dignitas logo that says living in a human way, dying in human dignity
Dignitas is a Swiss non-profit members’ society consisting of qualified Swiss doctors who provide assisted dying to those who fit the criteria.

In Switzerland, there is no specific law permitting or outlawing assisted dying (Roehr, 2021). Under Swiss Criminal Law, assisted dying has been tolerated since 1937, provided that the person who is providing the required assistance has no selfish motive (Blouin, 2018; Roehr, 2021). Switzerland is one of a few countries that permits non-residents to access assisted dying, earning the country the reputation of a suicide tourism” destination (Blouin, 2018).

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the Swiss model of the right to die:

Suicide Tourism” & Understanding the Swiss Model of the Right to Die

The United States of America & Oregon

Assistance in dying is available in a number of U.S. states including: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington D.C. (Death with Dignity, n.d.-b). The first U.S. state to officially legalize assisted dying was Oregon (Death with Dignity, n.d.-b; Roeher, 2021). In November 1994, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), a citizen’s initiative, was passed by Oregon voters (Oregon, n.d.). After some delay, the law was enacted on October 27, 1997 (Oregon, n.d.).

The DWDA allows terminally ill residents of Oregon to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications prescribed by a physician if they meet the required criteria (Oregon, n.d.). The criteria stipulates that a patient must: be 18 years of age or older; a resident of Oregon; capable of making and communicating health care decisions to health care practitioners; and diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months (Oregon Health Authority, 2021). “Since the law was passed in 1997, a total of 2,895 people have received prescriptions under the DWDA and 1,905 people (66%) have died from ingesting the medications” (Oregon Health Authority, 2021, p. 5). The following videos tell the stories of a young woman and an elderly couple who chose to use Oregon’s Death with Dignity option.

Brittany Maynard – A Video for My Friends

In the following video Brittany Maynard, a young American woman with terminal brain cancer, talks about her decision to end her life “when the time seems right” and why she became an advocate for the legalization of assisted death.

Oregon Couple Chooses ‘Death with Dignity’ on Same Day

The following video covers the story of a terminally ill Oregon couple, who is believed to be the first couple to die on the same day under Oregon’s Death with Dignity law. Their daughter produced a documentary about their experience (there is a link to that full video in the Recommended Resources section of this Chapter).


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On Death and Dying (Original) Copyright © 2022 by Jacqueline Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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