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Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS)

In countries other than Australia,
Canada, The Netherlands, UK, & U.S.

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Jose Euripedes Parra Parra, a person opposed to mercy killing brought a lawsuit with the intention of deleting all references to euthanasia in Colombia law. The lawsuit backfired. On 1997-MAY-20, their Constitutional Court legalized euthanasia for terminally ill persons who have clearly given their consent. The decision was 6 to 3. The court instructed the Congress to develop procedures to "regulate" the practice of euthanasia."

On 2007-NOV-05, a bill to legalize and regulate physician assisted suicide died in the Senate, because its supporters determined that they lacked sufficient votes to pass the bill.


On 1995-MAR-28, the District Court in Yokahama found a doctor guilty of murdering a terminally ill cancer patient who was expected to die within a few days. He received a two-year prison term, which was suspended. The court then listed four conditions under which mercy killing would be permitted in Japan:

  1. The patient is suffering in unbearable physical pain.
  2. Death is inevitable and imminent.
  3. All possible measures have been taken to eliminate the pain with no other treatment left open.
  4. The patient has clearly expressed his or her will to approve the shortening of his or her life.

Judge Matsuura ruled that

"Dr.Tokunaga's action did not meet all these conditions, arguing that the patient had made no clear expressions about his physical pain nor about his will to approve euthanasia. The doctor's action cannot be viewed as euthanasia and represents illegal termination of the patient's life."

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South Africa:

The country currently criminalizes physician assisted suicide. A survey by the Medical Association revealed that:

bullet 12% of physicians had already helped terminally ill patients die.
bullet 60% had performed passive euthanasia by withholding a medication or procedure with the expectation of hastening death. 
bullet 9% had engaged in physician-assisted suicide. 

Recent developments include:

bullet 1997-APR-15: The South African Law Commission released a 100 page discussion paper on  titled "Euthanasia and the Artificial Preservation of Life." It included a Draft Bill on the Rights of the Terminally Ill.7 The bill discusses:
bullet How mentally competent persons might refuse medical treatment and thereby hasten death
bullet That physicians could administer pain control medication, even though it has a "double effect" of killing pain and hastening death. This is a common practice that is currently in a legal limbo.
bullet That a competent person could obtain assistance in committing suicide from a physician under certain conditions. The patient would have to be suffering from a terminal illness, be in extreme pain that cannot be relieved, be over the age of 18, be mentally competent, and persistently request assistance in dying. Two doctors would have to agree. 
bullet That a person could issue a living will in advance of need which would direct what medical treatment that they would prefer to avoid.
bullet The conduct of medical personnel in withholding medical treatment. Doctors could refuse to participate in any of the above.
bullet 1999-MAR-9: The South Africa Medical Association asked that the proposed legislation be put on hold.
bullet 1999-MAR-10: Doctors for Life is a group of 600 physician who oppose choice in abortion and physician assisted suicide. They appealed to the South African government and Law Commission to retain the status quo and to abandon any proposed legislation. 
bullet 1999-OCT: A bill was under active discussion in Parliament.
bullet 1999-OCT-4: Christians for Life organized a demonstration to protest abortion access and physician assisted suicide.
bullet 1999-OCT-8 & 9: 40 African pro-life groups who form the National Alliance for Life (NAL) attended the "Love Them Both" conference in Amanzimtoti, South Africa. The conference linked the right of a pregnant woman to choose an abortion with the right for terminally-ill elderly persons in intractable pain who seek assistance in committing suicide. Albu van Eeden, the NAL chairman, said

"Euthanasia is contrary to the very nature of medicine. It will destroy the trust that forms the basis of the doctor-patient relationship. Legalizing euthanasia is all about giving the doctor the right to kill, to be both judge and executioner."

Van Eeden appears to be opposed to involuntary euthanasia in which a person is killed without their informed consent. The law proposed for South Africa would prohibit this, and allow physician assisted suicide only after the individual has requested it.

Dr. F. Kellerman, a member of Doctors for Life, said:

"We are deeply grieved because of the situation in South Africa. Despite the thousands of people who stood up against abortion and against the legalizing of euthanasia, the government just continues to do what they have in mind to do. We get the impression that irrespective of what the people say, irrespective of what scientific facts are put to the government, even in Parliament, there are some people who have set their minds on killing babies and bringing in euthanasia."

South Korea:

bullet 2007: A father was given a four year sentence for removing a respirator from his brain-dead son. The sentence was suspended.
bullet 2009-MAY-21: South Korea's supreme court upheld a lower court decision and authorized the removal of a respirator from a 76-year-old woman who was declared brain-dead in 2009-FEB. She had previously told her family that she did not want to be kept alive artificially if her impending hospital treatment ended badly. The supreme court ruled that maintaining a brain-dead state damaged "human dignity" when there was no chance of recovery. They wrote: "If it is obvious that the patient will die soon... we can conclude that she or he has already entered a phase of death. In this case, we must respect the patient's will because forced life-sustaining treatment may damage human dignity." 10

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. The text of the Northern Territory of Australia law is at:
  2. The Right-To-Die Society of Canada has a web page at:
  3. ERGO, the Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization promotes voluntary assisted suicide for terminally and irreversibly ill with unbearable suffering. They include a list of "right-to-die" agencies from around the world, movies which have dealt with the topic, a list of books on euthanasia, etc. See:
  4. VESS, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Scotland maintains a WWW site with an A-Z interactive glossary, information on Living Wills, case histories, mailing lists, and a Values History Centre. See:
  5. Brad Knickerbocker, "Sanctioned euthanasia: lessons from abroad," The Christian Science Monitor, 1998-DEC-3 at:
  6. "Dutch to legalize mercy killing." Associated Press, 1999-JUL-12.
  7. South African Law Commission, "Euthanasia and the artificial preservation of life."  Text is at:
  8. Maranatha Christian Journal is a religious online news source at: Their article on euthanasia is at:
  9. "London museum exhibits euthanasia machine," EWTN News at:
  10. Lim Chang-Won, "S Korea's top court upholds 'right to die' ruling," Hindustan Times, 2009-MAY-21, at:
  11. Derek Humphry, "Tread carefully when you help to die," Assisted Suicide, 2005-MAR-01, at:

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Copyright 1997 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-MAY-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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