Whilst this is not very upbeat for the new year, there has been some debate of the issue of assisted suicide in the past few days. This is taken from NHS England website
Euthanasia is the act of deliberately ending a person's life to relieve suffering.
For example, a doctor who gives a patient with terminal cancer an overdose of muscle relaxants to end their life would be considered to have carried out euthanasia.
Assisted suicide is the act of deliberately assisting or encouraging another person to kill themselves.
If a relative of a person with a terminal illness were to obtain powerful sedatives, knowing that the person intended to take an overdose of sedatives to kill themselves, they may be considered to be assisting suicide.
Both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal under English law.
Depending on the circumstances, euthanasia is regarded as either manslaughter or murder and is punishable by law, with a maximum penalty of up to life imprisonment.
Assisted suicide is illegal under the terms of the Suicide Act (1961) and is punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment. Attempting to kill yourself is not a criminal act in itself.
Types of euthanasia
Euthanasia can be classified in different ways, including:
- active euthanasia – where a person deliberately intervenes to end someone’s life – for example, by injecting them with a large dose of sedatives
- passive euthanasia – where a person causes death by withholding or withdrawing treatment that is necessary to maintain life, such as withholding antibiotics from someone withpneumonia
Euthanasia can also be classified as:
- voluntary euthanasia – where a person makes a conscious decision to die and asks for help to do this
- non-voluntary euthanasia – where a person is unable to give their consent (for example, because they are in a coma or are severely brain damaged) and another person takes the decision on their behalf, often because the ill person previously expressed a wish for their life to be ended in such circumstances
- involuntary euthanasia – where a person is killed against their expressed wishes
Depending on the circumstances, voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia could be regarded as either voluntary manslaughter (where someone kills another person, but circumstances can partly justify their actions) or murder.
Involuntary euthanasia is almost always regarded as murder.
There are arguments used by both supporters and opponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Read more about the arguments for and against euthanasia and assisted suicide.
End of life care
If you are approaching the end of life, you have a right to good palliative care – to control pain and other symptoms – as well as psychological, social and spiritual support.
You're also entitled to have a say in the treatments you receive at this stage.
For example, under English law, all adults have the right to refuse medical treatment, as long as they have sufficient capacity (the ability to use and understand information to make a decision).
If you know that your capacity to consent may be affected in the future, you can arrange a legally binding advance decision (previously known as an advance directive).
An advance decision sets out the procedures and treatments that you consent to and those that you do not consent to. This means that the healthcare professionals treating you cannot perform certain procedures or treatments against your wishes.
Read more about your rights when approaching the end of life.