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An overview of the modern legalization of murder through euthanasia

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Background Euthanasia is one of the most intriguing ethical, medical and law issues that marked whole XX century and beginning of the XXI century, sharply dividing scientific and unscientific public to its supporters and opponents.

It also appears as one of the points where all three major religions Catholic, Orthodox, and Islamic have the same view. They are strongly against legalizing mercy killing, emphasizing the holiness of life as a primary criterion by which the countries should start in their considerations. Studying criminal justice systems in the world, the authors concluded that the issue of deprivation of life from compassion is solved on three ways.

On the first place, we have countries where euthanasia is murder like any other murder from the criminal codes. Second, the most numerous are states where euthanasia is murder committed under privilege circumstances. On the third place, in the Western Europe we have countries where euthanasia is a legal medical procedure, under an overview of the modern legalization of murder through euthanasia prescribed by the law.

In this paper, authors have made a brief comparison of the solutions that exist in some Islamic countries, where euthanasia is a murder, with Western countries, where it represents completely decriminalized medical procedure.

The debate over legalizing euthanasia is like earthquake 1 — 4sharply divides the scientific and unscientific public on its supporters and opponents, and although through literature pervades the opinion that this topic has been exhausted 5.

In the maelstrom of issues that this topic opens, legislators all around the world try to find a practical solution, in order to resolve adequately the question of euthanasia. The line that separates admissible from impermissible merciful deprivation of life through the centuries has consistently been moved: Globally, there are three main ways of regulation of mercy killing. One group of countries equates it with ordinary murder, while the second group represents the view that the euthanasia is privileged murder.

Finally, in the third group euthanasia is decriminalized upon fulfillment of prescribed conditions.

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In Islamic countries, euthanasia is prohibited, both in the East 6 and in the Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is seen as non-Islamic 7 and it is equalized to the murder. Accordingly, in the countries where euthanasia is legally punishable, sentences vary from very lenient to the death penalty, as was the case in the Islamic countries 8. Since the debate over the legalization of active euthanasia does not subside for many years, its supporters and opponents have created strong organizations that represent their beliefs about the im morality and in feasibility of the same.

The focus of the problem lies in the question what extent is necessary to respect the life of terminally ill patients, and accordingly provide strong arguments. In other words, the question is whether in addition to the right on life, as a fundamental human right guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights and Liberties, there is a right to die, established through the right to self-determination.

Thus, opponents of legalization of active euthanasia, as primary argument, emphasize the holiness of life at all costs which is supported primarily with arguments in Islamic and Christian religion, which prohibit any form of suicide 79while its supporters believe that the moral obligation of doctors is to end the life of terminally ill patient who is suffering, but they also highlight the strong individual autonomy in the matters of life and death.

In short, both supporters and opponents summarize most of their arguments on the concept of respect for the patient, where they allocate four forms: Therefore, inter alia, any discussion of euthanasia leads to objections based on religious grounds. This religious opposition to euthanasia is based on the claim that only someone who is not religious can consider euthanasia as one of the options in the life, but it cannot be for the people who have a religious orientation.

In accordance with beliefs that prevail in some countries, their legislators resolve the issue of euthanasia in accordance with those beliefs, and an overview of the modern legalization of murder through euthanasia solutions will be discussed below.

Among the reasons that explain the different treatment of euthanasia between countries, according to some authors, doctors often have a limited experience in this field, because they are not faced with such health condition of the patients 12. This statement is correct. For example, physicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not have any experience with euthanasia. Euthanasia as murder In the world were crystallized three approaches in the legislative regulations of this matter, and we will briefly point out the solutions in some jurisdictions.

Due to the volume of work, we will explain the legislations in which euthanasia is equated with murder, as well as legislations that represent quite the opposite solution. First, in all Islamic countries, in accordance with religious beliefs, direct euthanasia is prohibited and is equated with the murder. Iran is no exception.

Euthanasia: Murder or Not: A Comparative Approach

In Iranian law, euthanasia is not explicitly an overview of the modern legalization of murder through euthanasia in the legal texts, but there are some exceptions that lead to a more lenient punishment in some murder cases. However, the euthanasia is a murder with intent, and comes from a religious doctrine of Muslims. Because of the above, there are still no attempts for broader interventions for legalizing mercy killing 14.

Such line of regulation of this sensitive matter kept the legislator in the Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has four similar criminal regulations, because this country has four legislations Bosnia and Herzegovina, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Serbs, and Brcko District.

These parts of the Bosnia do not have a same approach to the regulation of euthanasia, although at first glance it could be said that there is no difference in these criminal laws. It is a specific country, consisting of two entities Federation Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Republic of Serbsand the Brcko District. All three parts have their own legislation.

For some considerations it is important to note that on this territory are valid three criminal codes: Criminal Code of Federation Bosnia and Herzegovina further: The legislator makes a difference between this, ordinary murder, and the first degree murder which includes causing a death of another person in a cruel or insidious way; by reckless and violent behavior; on racial, national or religious reasons; for gain, to commit or conceal another serious crime; from ruthless revenge or other base motives; and the murder of official or military personnel in the performance of duties of security or the duty to maintain public order, arrest the perpetrator of the crime or guarding a person deprived o liberty article 166.

Almost identical provision is contained in the CC BD, which in the addition has a hate murder article 163.

  • They are strongly against legalizing mercy killing, emphasizing the holiness of life as a primary criterion by which the countries should start in their considerations;
  • However, the topic has seemed to take a backseat to other issues thus far;
  • On the other hand, the legislator in RS is in the group that has a benevolent view on this issue;
  • In addition, legal and medical theory state that patients are not afraid of euthanasia, but their biggest fear is that their request for euthanasia will be denied 35.

In addition to these two forms of murder, these laws recognize a provoked murder, manslaughter, murder of a child at birth, incitement to suicide and assisted suicide, and unlawful termination of pregnancy. Therefore, all those deprivations of life, which does not fall within in these specially defined, fall under ordinary murder. In this way, they observe euthanasia. In the part of country where live people of Islamic faith mercy killing is equated with the ordinary murder, while the legislator in the RS considers euthanasia as murder committed under mitigating circumstances.

According to it, who deprive another person of life shall be punished with imprisonment at least five years maximum is twenty-five years of imprisonmentbut if the crime is committed under mitigating circumstances, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment from one to eight years article 148. It follows that the criminal laws of the FBH and BD are inspired by the group of legislations that do not privilege a mercy murder, believing that compassion for poor condition of the murdered is not a separate basis for a more lenient punishment.

On the other hand, the legislator in RS is in the group that has a benevolent view on this issue. In the theory it is adopted an attitude that particularly mitigating circumstances occur circumstances in rare and specific situations.

However, it should be noted that the sharp equalization of these two types of murders is not desirable, because there are different reasons that lead to negative consequences 20. View of euthanasia as a simple murder took the English legislator, where it resulted in the emergence of the death tourism, the phenomena where English inhabitants travel to Switzerland in the special hospitals and institutions to be euthanized 21.

Ethical problems of euthanasia

At the end of these considerations, we could mention that in the United States euthanasia is also prohibited and equalized with murder. Euthanasia in Netherlands The first associations about the Netherlands for many years have been related to the beautiful canals, parks, windmills, rich museums, and unique architecture. Today, this country is particularly known for two things: The first known case of euthanasia in the Netherlands dates back to the early fifties of the last century, when the physician performed euthanasia against his own brother, who was in terminal stage of the disease and that caused a lot of pain, so he repeatedly asked his brother to take his life 23.

However, this case had not attracted the attention of the public, unlike the case Postma in 1973, when the doctor was prosecuted because she injected a le thal dose of morphine to her mother, who had very poor health, but did not fatally diseased.

  • Studying criminal justice systems in the world, the authors concluded that the issue of deprivation of life from compassion is solved on three ways;
  • Recognition of right to refuse treatment gives a way for passive euthanasia;
  • On the third place, in the Western Europe we have countries where euthanasia is a legal medical procedure, under requirements prescribed by the law.

In this highly emotional case, the court sentenced a doctor to one-year suspended sentence, but to whom execution is not occurred 2324. This was followed by an overview of the modern legalization of murder through euthanasia Amsterdam in 1977, Rotterdam in 1981 and Alkmaar in 1982. The Dutch parliament in the winter of 1993 reached a compromise between the two opposing concepts in the issue of euthanasia 24. The parliament enacted the law that represents, generally speaking, a sort of codification of rules and procedures under which euthanasia is performed approximately three decades prior the enactment of the law.

It is the most liberal law that regulates this matter in Europe. These standards and procedures are applied in medical practice and the practice of courts prosecuting crimes for deprivation of life from grace, and there is no extensive theoretical and legal doctrine on this issue, offering guidance in understanding the act of euthanasia 2526. The Netherlands prescribed the liberal conditions necessary for the execution of euthanasia.

According to the law, euthanasia is permitted upon meeting of the following requirements: The request originates from the patient, and is given free and voluntary; The patient suffers intolerable pain, which cannot be facilitated: Patient is aware of his medical condition and perspectives; Euthanasia is last sanctuary for patients, because there are no other alternative; The doctor, who has to perform an euthanasia, consulted a colleague who has experience in this field, and which has examined a patient and agreed that all conditions are met for euthanasia or assisted suicide, and Euthanasia or assisted suicide is performed with the necessary care 25.

Therefore, the physician who performs euthanasia will be protected from prosecution only if he meets all substantive and procedural requirements 29. That is why euthanasia is subject of control. In order to get the information whether they committed a crime, doctors sometimes have to wait an overview of the modern legalization of murder through euthanasia period of eight months from performed euthanasia 30.

In fact, after the euthanasia doctor has an obligation to fill out the appropriate protocol and inform about euthanasia the municipal pathologist, by filling out the appropriate form and attaching all necessary documents 31.

Although at one point in this country a question of the existence of culture of death was raised, which was caused by number of early deaths of patients, the Royal Dutch Medical Association Koninklijke Nederlandsche tot beverdering der Geneeskunst KNMGrecently, inter alia, reiterated that the law on termination of life must be an exception, not the rule, and that this procedure will never become a standard 32although a number of doctors do not consider euthanasia as a exceptional measure, which would require the exercise of social control of it 33.

However, the studies show that in the Netherlands euthanasia is more accepted way of completion of life. Proponents of this form of deprivation of life find that the key determinant in this process should be self-determination, because respect of life includes the avoidance of undignified death 34. In addition, legal and medical theory state that patients are not afraid of euthanasia, but their biggest fear is that their request for euthanasia will be denied 35.

With regard to the statistics of euthanasia, we can note that there are significant differences in relation to the different years of observation.

In the following year, there were 3,695 notifications, which represent a significant increase in the number of deaths in this way, compared with the previous year 37. The main reason in all observed periods that led the patients on this step was existence of cancer. However, it is important to mention the fact that in each of the analyzed years there are several cases where the doctor did not comply with the rules of procedure.

  1. At the opposite pole are the Western European countries, more specifically, the Benelux countries Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg , in which deprivation of life from the grace does not constitute a crime, if it was carried out in accordance with the clearly defined legal rules and medical procedure.
  2. In this paper, authors have made a brief comparison of the solutions that exist in some Islamic countries, where euthanasia is a murder, with Western countries, where it represents completely decriminalized medical procedure. In the same time, that does not mean that there were doctors who practiced in the shadows and supported the idea of euthanasia 34.
  3. All three parts have their own legislation.
  4. The factors put a large emphasis on the suspect knowing the person who died and on the death being a one-off occurrence in order to avoid a prosecution.

For example, in 2011 are recorded four such cases 37. In contrast to this fact, the prosecutions are rare. For instance, between 1981 and 1997 there were prosecuted only 20 doctors, of whom nine were convicted, but on the symbolic sentence six to the suspended sentence and three on fines 23. Then, based on the above, we should point out that in the Dutch professional public there are perceptions that the cases of euthanasia in fact do not exist.

Reason for this opinion is that most of the cases are related with patients who are terminally ill cancerwho have greatly suffered and received massive doses of medicaments 35. Euthanasia in Belgium The idea of legalizing euthanasia in Belgium emerged at the beginning of the 80s of the XX century, in the action of two associations for the right to die with dignity. However, unlike Netherlands, Belgium did not an overview of the modern legalization of murder through euthanasia a long history of performing euthanasia and prosecuting doctors, and it could not establish appropriate guidelines and led the legislator to the faster reaction.

In the same time, that does not mean that there were doctors who practiced in the shadows and supported the idea of euthanasia 34. Euthanasia law was enacted on 16 May 2002. In Belgium, before the enactment of the law, there were no guidelines or case law regarding to mercy killing.

Therefore, Belgian law is much more detailed than Dutch law, which was more a result of some sort of codification of regulations 27. For these reasons, the Belgian legislator issued detailed provisions, in order to provide a greater level of protection and security to doctors and patients 39.

Characteristic of this law is that legislator in the title as well as in the text, uses a term euthanasia, which is defined as intentionally taking the life of another person upon his request.

The definition, as a term, from one side, is taken from the Dutch law and theory; while on the other hand, the current Dutch law does use neither the term nor the definition.

Euthanasia: Right to life vs right to die

At this point, it is necessary to draw attention to the fact that the Belgian euthanasia law does not specifically regulate assisted suicide, and the reason for that can be found in the fact that it has never been a social need to regulate assisted suicide as a separate crime, and the difference between it and mercy killing is minimal.

Therefore, regulation of assisted suicide in this law was superfluous — such as excessive mention that physicians has to take this procedure with due care and attention 40. The requirements upon which the act of euthanasia will not constitute a criminal offence are set in almost the same way as in the Dutch legislation. To be sure, the physician needs to do more interviews with the patient, but spread over a longer period, in order to follow better the development of state of his mind.