In Switzerland, as well as in the US states of Oregon, Washington, and Montana, the law now permits physicians, on request, to supply a terminally ill patient with a prescription for a drug that will bring about a peaceful death. In The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, doctors have the additional option of responding to the patient’s request by giving the patient a lethal injection.
The panel examined reports from each of these jurisdictions, with the exception of Montana (where legalization of assistance in dying occurred only in 2009, and reliable data are not yet available). In The Netherlands, voluntary euthanasia accounted for 1.7% of all deaths in 2005 – exactly the same level as in 1990...
In Oregon, where the Death with Dignity Act has been in effect for 13 years, the annual number of physician-assisted deaths has yet to reach 100 per year, and the annual total in Washington is even lower...
Surveys show that more than two-thirds of Canadians support legalization of voluntary euthanasia – a level that has held steady for several decades. So it is not surprising that the report received strong backing in the mainstream Canadian media. What is more puzzling is the cool response from the country’s political parties, none of which indicated a willingness to support law reform in this area.
There is a similar contrast between public opinion and political (in)action elsewhere, including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and several continental European countries. Why, when it comes to dying, do democratic institutions so often fail to translate what people want into legislation?
I suspect that, above all, mainstream politicians fear religious institutions that oppose voluntary euthanasia, even though individual believers often do not follow their religious leaders’ views.
The rest of the essay is at Project Syndicate, via The Dish.