Fatally Flawed Experiments

Beginning with the first, short-lived experiment with a law permitting euthanasia, which was conducted in the Northern Territory in 1996-1997, there are twenty one  jurisdictions which have (or had) a scheme permitting either euthanasia or assisted suicide or both.

For other jurisdictions considering whether or not to legalise assisted suicide or euthanasia these jurisdictions can usefully be seen as a series of experiments. The evidence from these live laboratory experiments is – to say the least – patchy. Some of the regimes, while boasting of their “safety” seem deliberately designed to so minimise the collection and publication of data as to make it intrinsically impossible ever to know if, and how often, things go wrong.

Nonetheless a careful scrutiny of all the available data on these experiments leads to the conclusion that they are all – in various ways – fatally flawed.

None of the regimes that have so far been tried excludes inevitable wrongful deaths.

Download a booklet on all the Fatally Flawed Experiments or read further below:


Northern Territory (1996-1997)

The experiment with legalised euthanasia carried out in the Northern Territory is of particular relevance to any Australian jurisdiction considering legalising assisted suicide or euthanasia because it is the only Australian jurisdiction so far to...

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Oregon (1997- )

Oregon’s experiment, which is limited to assistance to suicide, raises a particular concern as there was no witness known to be present in nearly half the cases in which the lethal poison is ingested. It may have been administered to them by a fam...

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Switzerland (1998- )

The Swiss Penal Code has, since 1937, restricted the offence for inciting or assisting suicide to instances involving “selfish motives”. Since 1998 organisations such as Dignitas and Exit have relied on this provision to promote and provide assisted suicide to foreigners and residents respectively.

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Belgium (2002- )

Belgium’s experiment with euthanasia has expanded its scope continually over the past 18 years with deaths by legal euthanasia increasing more than elevenfold from 235 in 2003 to 2,656 in 2019. The increase just from 2018 to 2019 was 12.6%. The nu...

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Netherlands (2002- )

Overall the evidence shows that euthanasia in the Netherlands is increasingly seen as normative as in 2019 it accounted for 6.2% of all deaths of persons aged between 60 and 80 years of age. Additionally euthanasia for dementia, for psychiatric co...

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Luxembourg (2009- )

Euthanasia and assisted suicide been legal in Luxembourg since 2009. The person requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide must have a serious, incurable and irreversible affliction which leads to unbearable physical or mental suffering. The sixth ...

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Washington State (2009- )

Washington State’s Death With Dignity Act, based on Oregon’s, came into operation on 9 March 2009. Increase in numbers In the first full calendar year of operation, 2010, some 87 prescriptions for lethal substances were provided under the Act. By ...

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Vermont (2013- )

On 20 May 2014 a community organisation, True Dignity Vermont, reported that since the law was enacted two clinical psychologists had cases of patients believing suicide was now a more acceptable option. Additionally, an 85 year old Korean war vet...

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California (2016- )

The five mandatory annual reports so far published on California’s experiment with assisted suicide contain very minimal data.  There is anecdotal evidence from a patient and a doctor that health insurers in California are refusing to cover treatm...

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Canada (2015- )

Canada was ordered by its Supreme Court to undertake an experiment in euthanasia and assisted suicide. The initial terms of the experiment were very broad – a person’s death “must be reasonably foreseeable” and no objective assessment of a person’...

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Colombia (2015- )

The Constitutional Court of Colombia first attempted to force Colombia to experiment with euthanasia in a 1997 order but it took a second order in 2014 before the executive government complied. The elected parliament has still refused to pass any ...

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Colorado (2016- )

Colorado’s experiment in providing a safe regime for assisted suicide is a fail because it lacks any possibility of identifying problems and is already lackadaisical about significant non-compliance in basic reporting. In nearly one in four of cas...

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District of Columbia (2017- )

Assisted suicide became lawful in the District of Columbia effective from 6 June 2017. The law is modelled on Oregon’s including referral, at the discretion of the attending physician or consulting physician, to a psychiatrist or psychologist for ...

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Hawaii (2019- )

Assisted suicide became legal in Hawaii from 1 January 2019. The Our Care, Our Choice Act is modelled on the Oregon and Washington laws but has some differences. The Act requires an annual report to be issued, however, there is no requirement unde...

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Victoria (2019- )

On 19 June 2019 both assisted suicide and euthanasia became legal in Victoria. In a world first since ancient times, Victoria is experimenting with a system of permits for the State authorised suicide of a particular, named person using a specifie...

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New Jersey (2019-)

Assisted suicide became legal in New Jersey from 1 August 2019. The Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act is essentially modelled on the Oregon and Washington laws. Minimal reporting? Section 13 of the Act requires an annual statistical ...

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Maine (2019-)

Assisted suicide became legal in Maine from 17 September 2019. The Maine Death With Dignity Act is essentially modelled on the Oregon and Washington laws and creates  the same risks of wrongful deaths. It passed the House by just one vote (73-72) ...

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Germany (2020-)

On 26 February 2020 a unanimous decision of the eight judges of the second senate of the Federal Constitutional Court overturned Section 217 of the German Criminal Code which had been in effect since 10 December 2015. Section 217 read: Facilitati...

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New Mexico (2021-)

Assisted suicide became legal in New Mexico from 18 June 2021. The law allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants, as well as physicians, to prescribe a lethal dose of poison to enable a person to commit suicide. The poison can be supplie...

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Spain (2021-)

Euthanasia and assisted suicide both became legal in Spain from 24 June 2021. Access to euthanasia or assisted suicide is available on request for any person assessed by two doctors as having a "serious or incurable illness" or a "chronic or incap...

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Western Australia (2021-)

Euthanasia and assistance to suicide became legal in Western Australia from 1 July 2021. The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 allows the prescription by a medical practitioner for self-administration, or administration by a medical or nurse pract...

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