Luxembourg (2009- )

The law requires that the person to be euthanased have unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved. However, this is assessed largely on a subjective basis. The official Commission comments:

In most cases, many types of suffering, both physical and mental were present simultaneously. Sufferings have all been described as constant, unbearable and without prospect of improvement.

While certain objective factors can contribute to the estimation of the constant character, unbearableness  and lack of any prospect  of improvement of suffering, it is largely subjective and depends on the personality of the patient, and his or her own conceptions and values .


Euthanasia and assisted suicide been legal in Luxembourg since 2009. Unlike Belgium and the Netherlands the person requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide must have an incurable terminal condition.

The fourth biennial report by the National Commission for Control and Evaluation covering 2015-2016 was published in June 2017.

There were 52 cases between 2009 and 2016, all euthanasia except for one case in 2016 of assisted suicide.  The number of cases doubled from 5 in 2011 (0.13% of all deaths) to 10 in 2016 (0.25% of all deaths).

The law requires that the person have unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved. This is assessed largely on a subjective basis:

“In most cases, many types of suffering, both physical and mental were present simultaneously. Sufferings have all been described as constant, unbearable and without prospect of improvement.

While certain objective factors can contribute to the estimation of the constant character, unbearableness  and lack of any prospect  of improvement of suffering, it is largely subjective and depends on the personality of the patient, and his or her own conceptions and values .”

The Commission would like to see training in euthanasia for all health professionals in Luxembourg as well as the establishment of a specialist euthanasia service as exists in Belgium and the Netherlands. It wants all pharmacies to have euthanasia kits in stock.

Although there is a right for individual doctors to refuse to participate in euthanasia the Luxembourg government and the Commission agree that:

Freedom of conscience is an individual and not an institutional freedom. Thus, no hospital establishment can validly invoke this freedom to refuse to allow a doctor to practice within that  institution euthanasia or assisted suicide, when the conditions laid down in the law are fulfilled.

At the level of integrated centers for the elderly (aged care homes), it should be noted that the rights of people with serious and incurable conditions are themed as part of the annual accreditation visits. In case of refusal on the part of an institution of the practice of assisted suicide, it is obliged to inform any user before signing the hosting contract. If such is not the case, the center cannot refuse a request for assistance to the suicide from a user ".

The Commission maintains its position that death following an act of euthanasia or assisted suicide must be considered a death of natural cause.

Although the euthanasia law allows for euthanasia of an unconscious person following a written advanced directive registered with the Commission, the biennial report does not indicate how many, if any, of the 52 cases to date have involved advanced directive. In this case there is no requirement for suffering but only for a serious and incurable condition.

Conclusion

There is very limited data from the Luxembourg experiment with euthanasia. The Commission's desire to expand its frequency by implementing practices from Belgium and Netherlands is cause for concern.

 

Download a fact sheet on Luxembourg  


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