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Lifting the U.S. ban on euthanasia may be more complicated than you think

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Physician-assisted death — euthanasia — is lawful in three European countries, as well as Colombia and Canada. It is illegal, still, in the United States, though physicians in 10 states may supply lethal doses to terminally ill patients for self-administration. And the U.S. ban may not last forever: 72 percent of Americans support euthanasia, according to a May 2018 Gallup poll.

For the sake of an undeniably worthy goal, ending avoidable suffering, euthanasia places great confidence and trust in fallible human beings: patients who request it, doctors who carry it out and institutions, legal and professional, that regulate it.

Anyone confident about how this will work in practice should review a Dutch court’s Sept. 11 not-guilty verdict in the Netherlands’ first-ever murder case against a physician accused of violating the country’s euthanasia laws.

The patient was a 74-year-old woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four years before her death in 2016. She had seen her mother suffer with that agonizing incurable condition in a nursing home; not wanting to go through the same experience herself, she drafted documents, while impaired but still competent, asking that she be euthanized “whenever I think the time is right for this” and “when the quality of my life has become so poor.”

Doctors observed her closely until early 2016, at which time, in consultation with the family, the physician in charge concluded that she........

© Washington Post