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What is assisted dying?

The World Federation of Right to Die Societies advocates for a self-determined and dignified end of life, in which individuals have the freedom to request and obtain all appropriate care ranging from optimal palliative care to assisted dying. 

End of Life care
End of Life care is the term used by WFRtDS to describe all support and care provided at the end of life. End of Life care includes, next to assisted dying, palliative care (caring for a dying person) and respecting the wish to refuse medical treatment (the person dies from the disease).

Assisted dying
Assisted dying is the term used by WFRtDS to describe all kinds of actions that contribute intentionally in realizing someone’s end of life. It includes the distribution of medication to a person for self-administration and the direct administration of medication, in both cases causing the death.

Legality of assisted dying
In most jurisdictions on earth, assisted dying is not legal. In the jurisdictions in which it is legal, the person who offers assisted dying is bound to eligibility criteria established by the law in his/her jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction has its own focus, but the criterion that exists in every jurisdiction is that the request for assistance to die is voluntary. When the method of dying is the (self-) administration of some medication, health practitioners often play an important role in the process.

Other terms

  • Aid to die: The term used in Spain.
  • Assisted Dying: The term used in New Zealand.
  • Assisted Suicide: The term used to describe the distribution of a drug that can cause the death of a person. The term is used in Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands. 
  • Death with Dignity: The term commonly used in the USA. The website of Death With Dignity says the following about it:
    “Death with dignity is an end-of-life option, governed by state legislation, that allows certain people with terminal illness to voluntarily and legally request and receive a prescription medication from their physician to hasten their death in a peaceful, humane, and dignified manner. / Death with dignity is a term originating in the title of the Oregon statute governing the prescribing of life-ending medications to eligible people with terminal illness; because our founders authored the Oregon law, our family of organizations bears its name and it’s our preferred term for the practice.
  • Dignity in dying: A term used in the UK.
  • EAS: Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
  • Euthanasia: Deliberate termination of life by someone else, on the explicit request of the person involved. In the past, the terms passive/active were added to make a distinction between ending life-saving treatment (passive) and termination of life on request (active). 
    The term is used in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.  
  • Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD): The term used by some parties in the USA.
  • Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD):  The term used in Canada. In Canada MAID can be provided by either a physician or a nurse practitioner or it can be self-administered. In the case of self-administration, the physician or nurse practitioner provides or prescribes a drug that the eligible person takes themselves.   In Canada the majority of patients rely on physician or nurse practitioner administration rather than self administration.
    (Read more: Medical assistance in dying –
  • Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS): A term previously used in the USA.  
  • Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD): The term used in Australia. VAD is the provision of medical assistance to a terminally ill person for self administration of a drug which will cause their death. If the person is no longer able to self administer, a doctor can administer the drug.  
  • Voluntary euthanasia (VE): a term to emphasize the voluntariness of the request for euthanasia.