We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are the Different Types of Assisted Suicide Laws?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

There are a number of different types of assisted suicide laws and, in general, they either explicitly make assisted suicide legal or illegal or fail to address the issue and leave it to the purview of other statutes. For example, some countries or states within a country specifically indicate that assisted suicide is illegal and establish penalties for those convicted of such crimes. In a few countries and parts of countries, assisted suicide is clearly indicated as being legal under certain parameters, and these are clearly delineated by the laws of those areas. Other countries do not have clear assisted suicide laws and, in those regions, there are typically court cases that establish precedent for prosecution or acceptance of assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide is the practice in which a person who wishes to die, often due to long-term illness or protracted suffering, is assisted by a physician or friend in ending his or her own life. As may be expected, assisted suicide laws are typically fairly complex and are often the subject of heated debates and controversy both for citizens of a country and those outside the country. Most countries either have laws that explicitly indicate assisted suicide as illegal or have past instances in which assisted suicide cases have been prosecuted under other statutes.

In many European countries, for example, there are no assisted suicide laws clearly making the act illegal, however, those who might assist others in suicide could still be charged with a crime. Depending on the country, someone could be charged with being an accessory to manslaughter or murder, or charged with failing to help someone who was in danger. While these are often minor offenses and may not lead to prison time, they still make the practice of assisted suicide effectively illegal. These laws can, of course, change at any given time, but as of 2010, only a few countries including Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands had assisted suicide laws making the act legal.

In these countries, however, the assisted suicide laws often indicate that only a physician can perform the act or require that the person dying write a letter of intent to clear the name of whoever assists him or her. There are a few states in the US that have assisted suicide laws making it legal, including Oregon and Washington. In some other states, there have also been court cases in which a person accused of assisted suicide as a crime was cleared of charges even though he or she did commit the act, effectively setting precedent for decriminalizing the act. Most states in the US, however, have assisted suicide laws that explicitly indicate the act as a crime or criminalize assisted suicide under common law.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Animandel — On Mar 10, 2014

For better or worse (worse in my opinion), the views on doctor assisted suicide in the United States appear headed toward a more liberal direction. As strange as it may seem, patients may soon have the option of choosing to die as they now choose surgery or some other medical treatment.

By Sporkasia — On Mar 09, 2014

The opening paragraph in this article does a good job of highlighting the way laws govern assisted suicide in different countries and regions.

When you live in the United States and read about assisted suicide by physicians in this country, it's easy to fall into the misconception that the views held here are in accord with the rest of the world. When in fact, doctors have been helping patients die throughout history in many societies, and in some countries, doctor assisted suicide is still accepted as a necessary part of the medical profession.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.