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Chinese lawmakers start to argue on legalising euthanasia

This week, a group of Chinese legislators argued for legalising euthanasia during a review of a draft amendment to the country’s civil laws.

The discussion was started by the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s to legislature. Li Jie, a deputy to the NPC, told state media many cancer patients in the terminal stages feel acute pain and would choose euthanasia if available, so it should be legalised to protect human dignity. Ma Yide, another NPC deputy who made the same suggestion during the review, said the law should allow some people the right to euthanasia.

The National Health Commission had said in a statement released earlier this year that “performing euthanasia can help relieve unbearable pain for patients in the terminal stages of the disease, and help reduce the burden on their family and society, but that many difficulties surround the legalisation”. However, Ma, who is also a legal researcher at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, said that after many years of debate the timing for legalising euthanasia in China is becoming ripe.

“But we must recognise that the legalization of euthanasia cannot be rushed. At present, almost all the countries that allow euthanasia — including the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada — also possess highly developed economies and strong welfare systems,” Zhang Di, recently wrote for the Sixth Tone website. Zhang is a bioethics expert at one of China’s leading hospitals and research centres, Peking Union Medical College. He also said: “China’s own medical system is not up to those standards. Many Chinese — scholars and members of the public alike — worry that if euthanasia is legalised in our country, patients will feel pressured to undergo the procedure for financial reasons, such as an inability to afford their medical bills”.

The revised draft sections of the civil code are submitted to the NPC plenary session in March 2020.