Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Assisted Dying

Assisted dying around the world

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 10 September 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2200

Read our coverage of the assisted dying debate

  1. Bob Roehr, freelance journalist
  1. Washington, DC
  1. bobroehr{at}

Bob Roehr examines the current legal state of assisted dying in different countries and regions

Assisted dying goes by a variety of names from country to country.1 These are often chosen to shape public discourse, and the weight of different factors varies by country.

The practice is less likely in places and cultures that look more to family and society to make healthcare decisions, often to the point of shielding a patient from knowledge of a diagnosis and treatment options. Even in the western world, it’s not that long ago that patients were sometimes not told that they had terminal cancer.

The cost of care is often part of the debate: in many high income countries the government, or patients themselves through insurance, bear most or at least part of the direct costs of care. Religion is another: some religious groups are among the most potent foes of the right to die, and in countries where such groups provide a significant part of medical care they can wield an effective veto over such legislation.


The first person in the world to die under a specific law on the right to die was Bob Dent, in 1995 in Darwin, northern Australia. Two years later the Australian parliament took the highly unusual step of overturning the territorial law that had allowed the procedure.

In 2017 the state of Victoria passed a law on voluntary assisted dying based on the “Oregon model” that had emerged in the US (see “United States” below). Western Australia passed a similar law in …

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