Chronology of U.S. and international events related to assisted suicide

This timeline does not provide information on the dramatic and extensive events related to Dr. Jack Kevorkian that occurred in Michigan during the 1990's. To return to the Michigan chronology of events, click here. For faster access to this timeline by year, click on the opening year of the decade. 1980  1990  2000  2010

The National Society for the Legalization of Euthanasia (NSLE) was founded in the United States.

January 16: The NSLE re-organizes as the Euthanasia Society of America (ESA), later the Society for the Right to Die (in 1974).

February 14: ESA treasurer, Charles Nixdorff, is quoted in a New York Times article that ESA "hoped eventually to legalize the putting to death of non-volunteers beyond the help of medical science."

ESA forms a tax-exempt division called the Euthanasia Education Fund, later the Euthanasia Education Council (in 1972) and Concern for the Dying (in 1979). A bill to legalize assisted suicide is introduced in the Florida Legislature. The first living will is written by attorney Luis Kutner, he argues for its acceptance in the Indiana Law Journal

Living Wills are introduced by EEF attorney Louis Kutner in an Indiana Law Journal article titled: "Due Process of Euthanasia: The Living Will, a Proposal."

A court in the Netherlands found Gertruida Postma guilty of murder in the 1971 assisted suicide death of her mother. The court handed down a suspended sentence, beginning the legal trend of assisted suicide being allowed with no repercussions.

California enacts the first Living Will law in the country. Derek Humphry authors a book titled, Jean's Way in which he describes how he assisted in his wife's suicide by mixing a concoction of drugs for her to drink.

After moving to the U.S. from England, Derek and Ann Humphry found the Hemlock Society, an organization committed to the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia (later End of Life Choices, which in 2005 merges with Compassion in Dying to form Compassion and Choices).

A four-year court battle challenging legal prohibitions on assisted suicide and euthanasia ended with the Dutch Court of Appeals found that bans on euthanasia presented physicians with a conflict of duties. The ruling in essence gave physicians a legal green light to practice euthanasia.

May 15: The California-based Americans Against Human Suffering, a Hemlock Society spin-off group, fails to qualify the Humane and Dignified Death Act (HDDA) for the November 1988 ballot in California. The HDDA was the first attempt in the U.S. to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia by voter approval.

December: Right to Life of Michigan develops a model anti-assisted suicide law should one be needed.

January: The Hemlock Society Quarterly publishes an article indicating that assisted suicide may be legal in Michigan. The article specifically mentions Jack Kevorkian.

February 25: Terri Schiavo collapsed in her Florida home due to an unknown cause. She sustained brain damage that left her cognitively impaired, breathing normally and not requiring a ventilator, but being nourished through a feeding tube.

June 4: Jack Kevorkian assists Janet Adkins, 54, of Oregon in suicide. Adkins died in Kevorkian's van by an intravenous infusion of drugs. Adkins was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. This begins a 9-year odyssey involving Kevorkian, scores of deaths, dozens of legal and court actions, and Kevorkian's eventual imprisonment for second degree murder for euthanizing a man, then goading the CBS news program “60 Minutes” to air a video of the death which Kevorkian recorded. See the Michigan assisted suicide chronology for hundreds of details on the Kevorkian saga.

June 25: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Health Department that unless a patient had made clear their wish for termination of care their life-sustaining care could not be terminated.

January 2: Washington Citizens for Death with Dignity indicate they have collected some 212,000 signatures on a initiative petition to place a Death with Dignity Act on the Washington ballot. The initiative would legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia.

March 7: Dr. Timothy Quill publishes an article in the New England Journal of Medicine revealing how he assisted in the death of one of his patients by prescribing for her a lethal dose of medication. A medical board of inquiry examining the case refused to issue any sanctions against Quill.

March 14: Washington Citizens for Death with Dignity submit 223,000 signatures for their ballot initiative, which is later designated as Initiative 119 for the November election.

August 17: Derek Humphry's how-to suicide manual, Final Exit, becomes a number one best-seller on the New York Times category of advice books.

September 10: The Dutch Remmelink Commission issues its report showing thousands of Dutch patients being killed by their physicians without ever requesting death.

November 5: By a vote of 54% to 46%, the citizens of Washington reject Initiative 119.

January 30: The American Bar Association's House of Delegates rejects a resolution endorsing the enactment of statutes to legalize "voluntary aid-in-dying" for the terminally ill.

March 7: The Australian government cites the Federal Censorship & Customs legislation as its authority in banning the importation of Derek Humphry's suicide manual, Final Exit. Californians Against Human Suffering announces that it has collected enough signatures to place a Death with Dignity Act on the November 1992 ballot. The initiative was titled Proposition 161 and was very similar to the failed Washington Initiative 119.

November: Michael Schiavo, the husband of Terri Schiavo, won over a million dollars in a medical malpractice suit. After winning the suit he discontinued all therapy and rehabilitation and committed Terri to a nursing home where he gave the order to provide no medical care should she become ill.

November 3: California voters reject Proposition 161 to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide by a vote of 54% to 46%.

Compassion in Dying is founded in Washington (later merged with End of Life Choices to become Compassion and Choices in 2005).

February 9: The lower House of the Dutch Parliament approves a bill to exempt doctors from euthanasia prosecutions if they follow the "carefulness requirements" prescribed in the bill. Technically, assisted suicide and euthanasia remained illegal.

February 11: The same day, the Dutch Justice Ministry proposed euthanasia guidelines for the killing of patients without a specific patient request (i.e. involuntary and non-voluntary euthanasia).

September 30: The Canadian Supreme Court rules by a 5-4 decision that there is not a right to assisted suicide protected by the Canadian constitution. The case was brought by Sue Rodriguez, 43, of British Columbia, Canada, who had Lou Gehrig's disease and was requesting legal immunity for her physician and others who might assist in her intentional death.

October 24: Robert Latimer, Saskatchewan, Canada, called the police to say that his 12-year-old daughter had passed away in her sleep. She had cerebral palsy. The coroner's autopsy revealed a high level of carbon monoxide in her blood. On November 4 he was arrested for the murder of his daughter.

November 22: The upper house of the Dutch Parliament followed the lower house in approving the bill allowing physicians to perform euthanasia if they follow the "carefulness requirements." Penal codes prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide remain in force. Only the coroner's law regarding investigations into deaths was amended.

December 14: The Oregon Right to Die organization files their "citizen initiated Death with Dignity Act" (DWDA) to be placed on the November 1994 ballot in Oregon.

January 29: Compassion in Dying, a Washington state organization committed to assisting people in their suicides, files suit in federal court to have that state's ban on assisted suicide ruled unconstitutional (eventually known as Washington v. Glucksberg).

February 12: Sue Rodriguez, of British Columbia, Canada, died from an apparent lethal injection from an unnamed physician. Rodriguez had Lou Gehrig's disease and allegedly died in the arms of a Canadian Member of Parliament, Svend Robinson.

May 3: U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein strikes down Washington's ban on assisted suicide as unconstitutionally infringing on the rights of the terminally ill. Rothstein cited the privacy rights and liberty interests referenced in the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in the Casey v. Planned Parenthood and Cruzan cases.

May 25: The New York State Task Force on Life and the Law issued a unanimous report rejecting calls for the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The Task Force focused heavily on the dangers legalized medical killing would have for the poor, elderly, minorities, and disabled. Even members of the Task Force personally supportive of assisted suicide agreed that it should not be legalized.

June 21: The Dutch Supreme Court upheld the acquittal of Dr. Boudewijn Chabot, who had provided 50-year-old Hilly Bosscher with lethal medications for her suicide. Bosscher had no physical illness, but had been suffering from chronic depression and emotional distress.

November 8: Oregon narrowly approved Measure 16, the Death with Dignity Act by a vote of 51% to 49%.

November 16: Robert Latimer of Canada was convicted of second degree murder of his daughter. He was sentenced to life in prison, eligible for parole in 10 years.

November 29: On the same day, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit heard arguments in the Washington State case.

December 16: U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa ruled that New York state's law banning assisted suicide was constitutional. The case was identical to that brought by Compassion in Dying in Washington State. Dr. Timothy Quill was among the plaintiffs to bring the suit (Vacco v. Quill).

December 27: U.S. District Michael Judge Hogan issues a preliminary injunction indefinitely halting Oregon's DWDA after a week-long hearing.

January 10: Derek Humphry and John Hofess, executive director of the Right to Die Society of Canada, launch DeathNet, a website dedicated expressly to assisted suicide and euthanasia issues.

March 9: U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit, by a 2-1 vote reverses Judge Rothstein's decision, finding no constitutionally protected right to assisted suicide, and reinstating Washington's ban.

March 28: In Yokohama, Japan, District Court Judge Shigen Matsuura issued a 2-year suspended sentence to Dr. Masahito Tokunaga, a 38 year-old physician found guilty in April 1991 of murdering a cancer patient with a lethal injection of potassium chloride. Judge Matsuura's opinion included a list of guidelines for physicians to follow in order to avoid prosecution.

April 26: A Dutch court issued no punishment for Dr. Hank Prins despite finding him guilty of murder in the death of a newborn girl to whom he gave a lethal injection of medication. The court found that Prins had a choice between two "irreconcilable obligations"—preserving the child's life or ending her suffering. Two weeks earlier the prosecutor had urged the court to find Prins guilty but assess no punishment.

May 25: The 25-member Parliament of Australia's remote Northern Territory voted to legalize "voluntary" suicide, by a vote of 15-10.

June 6: After a lengthy hearings process, a Canadian Senate committee recommended that assisted suicide and euthanasia remain illegal, but that severe penalties for some euthanasia cases be lessened.

August 3: Judge Hogan permanently enjoins Oregon's DWDA, issuing an opinion that the law unconstitutionally fails to provide equal protection of the law for terminally-ill persons.

September: The Hemlock Society of Northern California becomes the 7th of 87 national Hemlock chapters to expand their support of euthanasia to include non-terminal patients.

October 26,: A full panel (en banc) of the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals re-hears arguments in the Compassion in Dying case, challenging the constitutionality of Washington state's assisted suicide ban.

February 20: The Parliament of the Northern Territory of Australia passed a bill providing necessary enacting amendments to the original bill legalizing "voluntary assisted suicide." The amendments were necessary to ensure the law could be implemented. An effort to repeal the original law was defeated by pro-euthanasia votes in the parliament. At that time the "Rights of the Terminally Ill Act" is the only euthanasia measure in the world ever passed by a parliament.

March 6: The full federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down Washington state's assisted suicide ban. The court invented a new constitutional right to lethal assistance for terminally ill persons. The decision also indicated that the Oregon Measure 16 should be considered constitutional.

April 3: The U.S. 2nd Court of Appeals struck down the New York assisted suicide ban. The court ruled that it violates the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment to allow some terminally ill adults to hasten their deaths by directing the removal of life-support systems, but to prohibit other terminally ill adults from seeking and taking lethal doses of drugs prescribed by a doctor.

September 9: A bill was introduced in Australia's Parliament House of Representatives which would repeal the Northern Territory euthanasia law. The bill would make it impermissible for the Australian Territories to enact laws allowing euthanasia of assisted suicide.

September 13: Federal Judge Consuelo Marshall, in Los Angeles, struck down California's ban on assisted suicide, relying on a landmark appeals court ruling that terminally ill patients have a right under the federal Constitution to decide when and how to die. But she also held that there is no such right under the state's constitution.

September 22: Robert Dent, an Australian man with prostate cancer is the first to die under the Northern Territory law permitting voluntary euthanasia. He died by lethal injection triggered by an intravenous line hooked up to a computer, developed by Dr. Philip Nitschke. Over time Nitschke would become Australia's equivalent of Jack Kevorkian.

September 28: Congressmen in Washington, DC, introduced legislation that would ensure that federal funds are not used to pay for assisted suicides.

October 1, The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the assisted suicide cases of Washington v. Glucksberg and Quill v. Vacco.

October 27: The Liberal Party of Canada, at their convention in Ottawa, passed a resolution endorsing legalizing euthanasia.

November 12: The Clinton administration filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court assisted suicide cases. The administration took the position that states have the right to ban physician assisted suicide and has asked the Supreme Court to rule that terminally-ill people have no constitutional right to doctor-assisted suicide.

November 15: The Australian High Court adjourned the application for special leave to appeal from the decision of the Northern Territory Supreme Court upholding the Northern Territory's Rights of the Terminally Ill Act. The Court said that it would not hear the matter while a bill was before the Federal Parliament to override the Territory's legislation. If that bill is passed into law, there will be no NT law for the Court to rule on.

December 9: Australia's House of Representatives, adopted a bill to set aside the Northern Territory's euthanasia law, which had gone into effect 6 months earlier. The national parliament can overturn laws in the territories, but not in its six states.

December 16: Dr. Ernesto Pinzon-Reyes of Highlands County, Florida was charged with murder for giving a lethal injection of morphine and potassium chloride to a terminally ill patient in October. He pled not guilty and consulted Kevorkian's Attorney Geoffrey Fieger. The patient had not asked to die nor had the family requested a lethal action. The nurses refused to inject the dose of morphine, so the doctor did the injecting.

January 2: Janet Mills, 52, of Australia is the second person to use the Northern Territory euthanasia law in Australia. She was supervised by Dr. Phillip Nitschke, as she self-administered the drugs that killed her. She had mycosis fungoides, a rare form of skin cancer.

January 20: A 69-year-old man became the third person to use the Northern Territory "Rights of the Terminally Ill Act." The only detail released was that he had stomach cancer.

January 21: Dutch justice Winnie Sordrager said that the government will no longer require that reported euthanasia cases be referred to public prosecutors; instead they will be reviewed by independent committees of "medical, legal and ethical experts," allowing for what Sordrager called " a more nuanced assessment" of whether euthanasia was justified. Only cases they deem questionable will go to a prosecutor.

January 31: Palm Beach, FL, Circuit Judge Joseph Davis ruled that a doctor can aid a man dying of AIDS to commit suicide and not be prosecuted. He said his ruling only applies to Charles Hall, the last survivor of a lawsuit filed a year ago by three terminally ill patients. Judge Davis ruled that Hall "has a constitutional right to decide to terminate his suffering and determine the time and manner of his death." He also issued an order forbidding the Palm Beach County State Attorney from filing criminal charges against Hall's physician, Dr. Cecil McIver, or anyone else who helps in his suicide.

February 7, The Canadian Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for Robert Latimer (convicted of killing his 12-year-old daughter in November 1993) because of a breach of procedure during the first trial. The police had interviewed the prospective jurors privately, asking them questions regarding religion, abortion, and euthanasia. Five of the them were picked for the jury.

February 27: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled 3-0 to dismiss the challenge to Oregon's law that allows physician-assisted suicide for terminally-ill patients. Judge Melvin Brunetti wrote in the opinion, that those who brought the suit against the law cannot show they face an "immediate threat of harm."

March: A 70 year old woman from Sydney, Australia, became the 4th person to use the Northern Territory's Assisted suicide law. Dr Phillip Nitschke assisted her death by lethal injection. Her family requested that no other details be given.

March 20: U.S. House Commerce Committee approved a bill, HR 1003, that would prohibit assisted suicide payments for people on Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs. It passed 44-2.

March 25: In Amsterdam, Netherlands, Dr. Shippe Schat was charged with murder in a patient's death. In April, 1996, Dora Brattinga, a 72-year old cancer patient died from a fatal dose of insulin. Dr. Schat says that she requested the injection. He did not follow any of the government-approved guidelines, such as a written request or a second opinion. The family and friends of the victim supported his actions. In Australia legislation to overturn the world's first euthanasia laws passed the Senate by a vote of 38-33, overriding the Northern Territory law.

April 8: Dutch Dr. Shippe Schat was set free, with a six month suspended sentence for his violations of the euthanasia guidelines.

April 10: The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act H.R. 1003 by a vote of 398-16.

April 16: The U.S. Senate approved H. R. 1003 by a vote of 99-0.

April 23: The Family Law subcommittee of the Oregon state legislature approved H.B. 2954, a proposal to place Measure 16 back on the ballot.

April 27: The Oregon Medical Association's House of Delegates voted to oppose Measure 16.

April 30: President Clinton signed the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act into law.

May 13: Oregon's House of Representatives voted to repeal Ballot Measure 16, by a vote of 32-26.

June 9: The Oregon Senate voted 20-10 to give the voters a chance to repeal the state ballot Measure.

June 16: This is the first time in Oregon history that the legislature ordered a repeat election on an initiative that voters had already approved.

June 26: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the assisted suicide cases from New York and Washington state, Vacco v. Quill and Washington v. Glucksberg. The judges unanimously ruled that there is no "constitutional right to assisted suicide." The court left it up to individual states to pass laws regarding assisted suicide.

July 17: The Florida Supreme Court ruled that a person does not have the right to physician-assisted suicide under the Florida state constitution. They overturned a lower court's ruling that a privacy provision in Florida's state constitution gives a right to physician-assisted suicide.

July 20: Dr Michael Irwin of England has admitted helping at least 50 people to die. In more than half of the cases he has personally injected a lethal dose of morphine. He also admitted to supplying a plastic bag for two of the people. The family physicians of all of the patients were not aware of the cause of death and recorded them as natural deaths. In England it is against the law to give someone a lethal dose with the intention of killing them. No charges were ever filed against Irwin. However, in 2005, Irwin was arrested for assisting in the suicide of Patrick Kneen. Irwin was found guilty of medical misconduct and forced to surrender his medical license.

October 14: The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Lee v. Harcleroad. This was the case that has prevented the 1994 Oregon law on assisted suicide from taking effect.

October 27: The second trial of Robert Latimer begins, ending later in a guilty verdict, which brings a mandatory life sentence without chance of parole for ten years.

November 4: Oregon's Measure 51 failed the repeal effort by a margin of 60 to 40 percent.

November 5: Thomas Constantine, DEA Administrator, concluded that "delivering, dispensing or prescribing a controlled substance with the intent of assisting a suicide would not be under any current definition of a 'legitimate medical purpose'" and thus would violate the Controlled Substance Act. He had been asked by Sen. Hatch and Cong. Hyde to give them his view on assisted suicide as a legitimate medical practice.

December 1: Claiming Robert Latimer's 10 years-to-life sentence would be "cruel and unusual" under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Justice Ted Noble commuted the sentence to one year in prison and one year probation on his farm.

December 3: Hemlock Society USA declared its support for legalizing non-voluntary euthanasia for mentally incompetent patients who never requested death.

December 10: The British parliament rejected the "Doctor-Assisted Dying Bill" for terminally ill patients. The vote was 234-89.

December 22: Canadian officials announced that they will appeal the commuted sentence given to Robert Latimer. Also, Toronto Dr. Maurice Genereux plead guilty to two counts of assisting a suicide. He is the first Canadian doctor to be convicted of this crime.

February 26: Oregon Health Services Commission voted 10-1 to add assisted suicide to the priority list of treatments provided to Medicaid patients under Oregon's Health Plan. Lethal drugs will be part of "comfort care" services.

March: Michael Schiavo began litigating to have Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube removed, under a Florida law passed in 1997 that legalized denial of care to patients in a persistent vegetative state, through a court order without written patient request, despite the fact that PVS is misdiagnosed about 50% of the time. Medical Experts as well as Terri’s biological family challenged Terri’s diagnosis. The fight lasts seven years. Terri’s feeding tube was removed a total of three times.

March 25: It was reported that Oregon's first use of doctor assisted suicide occurred. Compassion in Dying found a physician willing to assist in the suicide because the patient's physician as well as a second doctor both concluded she was depressed and they were therefore unwilling to assist in her suicide. Her status as the first person was questioned by an unidentified relative of another woman who claims her relative was assisted before March 25th. The Hemlock Society provided the physician because the family did not want any publicity.

May 13: The first Canadian doctor, to be charged with assisting a suicide, was sentenced to two years in prison. Dr. Maurice Genereux's attorney said he would appeal. He also lost his medical license when first charged in March.

May 17: The Swiss pro-euthanasia group Dignitas is founded near Zurich. The organization would go on to establish euthanasia “centers” (usually homes) and promote “suicide tourism” to allow desperate people to travel to Switzerland to kill themselves. Dignitas helps such victims with arrangements for both coming to Zurich and handling their dead bodies after killing themselves. Swiss government officials originally express concerns about Dignitas' activities, but eventually take a “look the other way” approach.

June 5: U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno issued her determination on whether Oregon's DWDA was in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act. She said that the law permitting doctors to prescribe lethal drugs does not violate the federal law.

June 7: In response to the Reno ruling on Oregon, Reps. Hyde & Oberstar introduced a House bill to amend the federal Controlled Substance Act. It specifically prohibits physician-assisted suicide, through prescribing federally regulated drugs. Two days later, Sen. Nickles introduced the same legislation into the Senate.

June 9: A Hawaiian 18-member panel released a report recommending that Hawaii legalize euthanasia. They completed 18 months of hearings and debates and concluded that individuals should have the choice to end their lives, either by their hand or their doctor's.

July 27: The Hemlock Society issued a press release calling for the legalization of assisted suicide for persons with "incurable" conditions.

September 22: U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan reluctantly denied a request by terminally-ill plaintiffs to renew a challenge to Oregon's physician assisted suicide law (Lee v. Oregon).

October 14: New York veterinarian, Marco Zancope was arraigned for second degree manslaughter. He admitted to administering a lethal dose of pentobarbital (a drug used to euthanize animals) to a friend Cara Beigel, 33. She was a breast cancer patient.

October 15: The World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies issued the "Zurich Declaration," stating that people "suffering severe and enduring distress (should be eligible) to receive medical help to die."

November 22: CBS's 60 minutes aired a tape in which Jack Kevorkian was shown injecting Tom Youk, 52, of Watertown Twp., MI, with several substances aimed at killing him. Mr. Youk had ALS. Kevorkian's plan was to push his agenda to allow for active assistance in killing those people who request it. After the airing Oakland Co. Prosecutor David Gorcyca subpoenaed the tape from CBS. The death actually took place two months earlier on September 17, 1998.

November 23: An appeals court in Saskatchewan, Canada reversed the lenient sentence given to Robert Latimer, who was convicted of killing his 12-year-old daughter who was handicapped with cerebral palsy. The unanimous decision ruled that Latimer must serve a life sentence with the chance of parole after 10 years. He will appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court. The Oregon Health Services Commission made the decision to cover assisted suicide under the Oregon Health Plan beginning on December 1, 1998.

November 27: Australian Physician Philip Nitschke admitted that he had assisted in 20 suicides, all were video-taped just before death, but not the process of dying. The Australian Medical Association urged authorities to begin an investigation.

January 13: Researchers from the Oregon Health Division (OHD) present their first analysis of the state's first year under the Oregon Death with Dignity law. Fifteen people used the law to commit suicide. Only one patient cited fear of pain as a motive for suicide. At least one patient had to "shop" for a pro-euthanasia physician to assist after two treating physicians denied her request.

March 5: According to an informal poll by the State of Oregon, 67% of Oregon doctors who routinely treat terminally-ill patients said they would refuse to engage in assisted suicide.

March 15: Pro-euthanasia ads air on Australian TV, featured in the ad is June Burns, 59, a cancer patient and euthanasia proponent who says she wants someone to kill her. The ad was intended to be the first in a series showing the various states of Burn's deterioration. The ads were given a PG rating and shown only before 7:30 p.m.

March 16: Four elderly men filed lawsuits petitioning for the legalization of assisted suicide in India. Legal experts say that the suits highlight the fact that the elderly are increasingly being neglected and abandoned.

March 26: Jack Kevorkian is convicted of second degree murder in the death of Thomas Youk. All his appeals would later fail. He served 8 years in prison before being released on parole in 2007.

April 16: British doctor, David Moor, was acquitted of murdering his patient, George Liddell, 85.

April 27: Dr. Philip Nitschke, often referred to as Australia's Dr. Death, held the first ever three-day Euthanasia Advisory Clinic in Melbourne. He dispensed information on lethal drugs and ways to obtain them.

May 6: The Canadian Supreme Court announced it would hear an appeal of Robert Latimer's murder conviction.

June: The Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999 was introduced in Congress to promote aggressive pain management while outlawing the use of controlled substances for assisted suicide and euthanasia. The bills gained support from groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Hospice Organization (NHO).

August 11: The government in Amsterdam, Netherlands published plans legalizing mercy killing under guidelines that were expected to gain approval in 2000.

September 9: A lawsuit filed in the Alaska Supreme Court to create a state constitutional "right" to assisted suicide failed. The ruling has been appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court and oral arguments are expected in the year 2000.

September 20: Switzerland is the only country that permits non-doctors to assist in suicides. A pro-euthanasia organization called Exit, headed by a retired pastor, admitted helping kill 120 people during 1998 via overdose of barbiturates and sent manuals to hundreds more with advice on how to die.

October 16: Oregon's "safeguards" against abuse may have failed after a recent assisted suicide case where an 85-year-old woman with cancer and early-stage dementia was given a lethal overdose. The woman's daughter shopped around for physicians until she found one that would conclude her mother was competent to choose death.

October 27: The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain Relief Promotion Act by a vote of 271 to 156. The PRPA would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 to establish that aggressive pain management is a "legitimate medical purpose" for the use of drugs regulated under the CSA. It will also allocate $5 million for pain control and research grants. The bill prohibits federally controlled drugs to be used to intentionally end patients' lives, which would almost completely curtail legally-allowed assisted suicide in Oregon.

December 7: Age Concern, a British charity called for a government inquiry into claims that health officials are practicing "involuntary euthanasia" on elderly patients in an attempt to free up beds in hospitals. Police are investigating 60 deaths in hospitals whose patients were allegedly denied water and food by staff. Age Concern documented evidence that health services discriminate against older patients. A government health minister said the claims were unfounded.

December 15: Japan's government considered banning a suicide book which some groups feel glamorizes suicide and may attribute to this year's 35-percent rise in suicides. Japan has one of the highest rates in the world for suicide, with an 85-percent increase in the number of young people who killed themselves. The Complete Manual of Suicide has sold 1.2 million copies.

December 24: A draft bill that would give Belgium one of the world's most pro-assisted suicide policies was proposed and expected to become law by June 2000. The bill would put Belgium law on a par with legislation in the state of Oregon. Euthanasia is widely practiced in Belgian hospitals already but fortunately doctors can be prosecuted under the current penal code.

February 4: The New Hampshire Senate overwhelmingly defeated SB 44, by a vote of 22-2. This was a bill based on the Oregon physician assisted suicide law.

February 24: A new study from the Netherlands shows that "complications" occurred in 7% of 649 cases of assisted suicide. It also found that 16% of the cases had "problems with completion" (delays of hours to days before death occurred). Twenty-seven terminally-ill Oregonians used the nation's only assisted suicide law to end their lives, in 1999. It was an increase of 11 over 1998.

March 7: Less than 2 days after Derek Humphrey's video Final Exit was aired on a Hawaiian public access station, 2 suicide victims ended up in the Honolulu medical examiners office. Both victims used the same plastic bag method touted by Humphrey in his video. Suicide-by-asphyxiation is not that common in Hawaii, and that made the medical examiner suspicious of the deaths. Neither victim was terminally ill, and both had a history of depression.

March 17: In Australia, Dr. Phillip Nitschke, euthanasia advocate, was granted permission to establish "death advice clinics" in the state of Tasmania. He already has 8 terminally ill patients lined-up to take advantage of his services. Since "advising, counseling, or assisting" persons in assisted suicide in Australia is illegal, he says he can offer advice on how to attain a "peaceful escape" without actually assisting in the patients suicide.

April 27: The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Pain Relief Promotion Act by a vote of 10-8. The Senate slightly amended the PRPA, to accommodate concerns by the American Medical Association. The new version maintains state authority over medical practice and establishes the "clear and convincing evidence" standard in cases where a doctor is thought to have used controlled substances for assisted suicide.

May 22: The European Patent Office in Germany amended a previously granted patent for a "euthanasia cocktail" to be used on animals only and excluded humans. That previous patent contained what appeared to be intentionally vague language that could have extended the patent for use with humans. The original patent was granted in 1996 to Michigan State University for veterinary purposes only.

June 9: The Colorado Court of Appeals has upheld the state's law banning assisted suicide.

July 10: A Utah psychiatrist, Robert Weitzel, accused of killing 5 elderly patients by prescribing fatal doses of morphine was convicted of manslaughter and negligent homicide. He faces from 2-45 years in prison. He also faces federal charges in Utah on 22 counts of prescription fraud, and has lost his medical license. The Dutch government resubmitted a proposal to formally legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, eliminating a provision to allow euthanasia for children as young as 12. A French medical clinic, run by the French national health service is under investigation for murder following allegations by nurses that doctors routinely dispense the "cocktail of death" to the old and dying, killing between 20 and 40 patients. Several nurses have come forward to make the allegations.

July 14: The Dutch government has again decided to withdraw the proposal that would have allowed children to request and receive euthanasia without parental consent. The newly amended provision still allows children to be euthanized, but requires parental consent.

August 25: Judge Jessica Cooper denied Jack Kevorkian his third request for release from prison. He sought release on bond pending his appeal on the grounds that he has high blood pressure and prison threatens his health.

October 29: The city of Zurich, Switzerland issued a directive sanctioning assisted suicide for the elderly living in elder care homes. The patients must request the assistance.

November 7: Maine voters defeated the ballot measure, Maine Death With Dignity Act, to legalize assisted suicide, with a vote of 51% to 49%.

November 14: The Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Sampson & Doe v. State of Alaska, suit challenging Alaska's assisted suicide ban.

November 24: A recent survey conducted by researchers from the Free University Brussels and Ghent University found that one in ten doctors actively end patients lives. During a one year period, they found that three in every 100 deaths, patients had been given lethal injections without their permission. Also in 5.8% of the cases treatment was withheld for the purpose of ending the patient's life.

November 28: The Dutch Parliament's Lower House passed a bill, by a vote of 104-40, to officially make euthanasia and assisted suicide legal under certain conditions.

January 15: The Belgian senate voted on one key article of the draft proposal to legalize euthanasia, the vote was 17-10. It took a year to pass this article, there are 12 articles in the proposal. This article not only applies to terminally ill patients, but those who are incurably ill with several years left to live.

January 18: Canadian Supreme Court upholds sentence of 25 years, with 10 year minimum before parole eligibility of Robert Latimer.

February 21: The Oregon Health Division released the annual report on the practice of physician assisted suicide for 2000. 27 patients died from the drugs given by doctors. There were actually 39 prescriptions handed out and as of Dec. 31, 2000, 26 had used the drugs, eight died from their illness and five were still alive. One death was from a prescription dispensed in late

March 3: Dutch practitioner Wilfred van Oijen was found guilty of murder in the death of an 84 year-old patient who specifically did not authorize euthanasia. Like all the other cases of euthanasia, the court handed down no penalty. It ruled that van Oijen simply made a "error in judgment" and that he acted "honorably and according to his conscience." He gave the patient an injection of alloferine, which is not considered an euthanasia drug.

March 26: Kristen Gilbert, a VA hospital nurse, gets life in prison for injecting four patients with a heart stimulant, killing them.

April 10: The Dutch Parliament's upper house gave final approval to a bill formalizing active euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. This makes the Netherlands the first nation in the world to enact such legislation.

August 7: The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM) issued a strong statement in opposition to physician-assisted suicide.

August 8: The California Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of protecting vulnerable, conscious conservatees. The ruling was too late for Robert Wendland (for whom the case was brought to the courts), he died 3 weeks earlier from pneumonia.

September 21: The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the state's constitution did not guarantee a right to assisted suicide. The ruling upheld an earlier ruling by Supreme Court Judge Eric Sanders.

October 25: The Belgian Senate approved a bill that would allow terminally-ill patients to seek a physician to aid in ending their lives. The bill now has to go the House where it was expected to pass. Belgium will become the second country in Europe to pass a law legalizing assisted suicide.

November 7: U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a directive stopping physicians from prescribing federally-controlled drugs to help end lives of terminally-ill patients.

November 8: The state of Oregon filed a suit against the U.S. government to block the directive issued by Attorney General Ashcroft. U.S. District Court Judge Jones issued a temporary restraining order, indicating he would rule in mid April, 2002.

February 7: Six fewer terminally ill patients used Oregon's assisted suicide law in 2001 than in the two previous years. Twenty-one patients took their lives under the law. A total of 91 have used the law since 1998.

February 23: A Hawaii House committee vote passed 8-1 in favor of a bill to legalize assisted suicide. A few days later the Senate's Health & Human Services Committee voted the bill down.

March 24: Judge Robert Jones heard arguments regarding the suit Oregon filed against Attorney General Ashcroft's directive on the use of federally controlled drugs used in assisting suicides.

April 1: The Netherlands became the first country to officially legalize euthanasia. The law allows people experiencing unbearable pain to request euthanasia. Doctors who aid in the mercy killings are free from prosecution, provided they have followed the strict procedures.

April 18: Judge Jones issued his ruling in the Oregon suit, finding that the federal government does not have the authority to overturn Oregon's assisted suicide law.

April 29: The European Court of Human Rights upheld Great Britain's High Court and the House of Lords ruling against Diane Pretty's claim that Great Britain's law against assisted suicide violated her basic human rights.

May 2: The Hawaii Senate narrowly defeated the "Death with Dignity Act" by a vote of 14-11.

May 16: The Belgium House passed the Assisted Suicide law 86-51, making it the second country to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

May 22: In Australia, Nancy Crick, 69, killed herself with barbiturates, surrounded by 21 friends and family. The autopsy showed no signs of recurrence of the bowel cancer which was surgically removed several months prior. She still complained of the symptoms of cancer. Exit spokesman, John Edge, said the point that the autopsy showed no cancer was "academic" because the euthanasia campaigners wanted euthanasia to be legalized for the "hopelessly ill" not "terminally ill." An investigation has been ordered to determine Dr. Nitschke's role in the death. The Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill giving authority to the State Medical Board, the Board of Nursing, and the Respiratory Care Board to discipline care providers who participate in assisting suicides. The bill also allows for a Compassionate Task Force to study terminal illness and chronic pain. The bill passed 83-7.

May 23: A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that one in five Dutch patients with ALS opt to die from either assisted suicide or euthanasia. The study included 203 ALS patients who died from 1994 to 1999. 17% chose euthanasia (doctor administered drugs); 3% physician-assisted suicide (physician provided drugs, patient took them). Those who chose euthanasia were significantly-more disabled.

September 30: Legislators on the island of Guernsey, a British Territory in the English Channel, voted to launch a study into legalizing assisted suicide. The vote was more than 2-1 in favor. This is the first step in legalizing assisted suicide. British groups on both sides of the issue said they would watch the developments closely.

October 20: Florida passes “Terri’s Law” to allow Governor Jeb Bush to put a one-time stay on a court’s ruling. Governor Bush stays the court ruling to remove Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. Terri’s Law is appealed through the courts finally being struck down at the Supreme Court of Florida in an unanimous decision.

May 26: The U.S. Department of Justice appeals Oregon v. Ashcroft to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit Court upholds the lower court’s ruling, leaving the Oregon’s assisted suicide law intact. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced he would appeal.

March 18: The Court orders that Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube is removed, causing Terri to begin the long and painful process of death through dehydration. Terri’s family continued fighting for her life. Both the United States Congress as well a President Bush attempted to pass legislation to protect Terri, who had likely been misdiagnosed as in a persistent vegetative state.

March 21: Just after midnight the U.S. House passes S.686 in a last ditch effort to save Terri’s life. President Bush signs it into law at 1:10 am. The Florida judge dealing with Terri’s case tragically ignored the new law.

March 31: Terri Schiavo died, after 13 days of being deprived of food and water, still seeming to recognize her family.

August 5: The Florida State Guardianship Association names Michael Schiavo its "Guardian of the Year."

The American Medical Woman’s Association comes out in support of assisted suicide. AB 374, a bill to legalize assisted suicide is introduced into the California Assembly, it fails.

January 16: In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the federal government could not prosecute physicians in Oregon who assisted in suicide (Gonzales v. Oregon).

January 21: Michael Schiavo marries a women to whom he had been engaged during the fight over ending his wife’s life. Michael never acted to divorce Terri. During the time Terri was alive Michael had two children with this other woman.

October: Mark S. Connel, on behalf of Bob Baxter, files Baxter v. Montana, claiming that the Montana Constitution guarantees a right to physician assisted suicide.

A proposed Washington state assisted suicide law, similar to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, qualifies for the November ballot, becoming initiative 1000. The American Public Health Association comes out in support of physician assisted suicide

February 19: Luxembourg legalizes assisted suicide.

November 4: Washington voters approve assisted suicide, by a vote of 58%-42%, becoming the second state to do so.

December 5: Montana district court judge finds a constitutional right to assisted suicide, putting Montana in limbo regarding physician assisted suicide.

March 5: Washington’s legalization of assisted suicide is implemented.

December 31: In a contorted ruling Montana Supreme Court ruled that physician assisted suicide is not a violation of Montana law that can be prosecuted, but also did not declare it to be a right. The ruling essentially left a legal mess in the lap of the Montana Legislature to sort out.

January 6: Montana Senators introduce SB 116 into the Montana State Senate to make assisted suicide illegal. HB 2016 is killed in an Oregon State House committee. HB 2016 would have required all patients seeking assisted suicide undergo psychiatric evaluation. Compassion and Choices declares that there is no law against physician assisted suicide in Hawaii, attempting to set the stage for court action or a legislative initiative.

January 23: The documentary How to Die in Oregon is released about Oregon’s assisted suicide law.

June 3: Jack Kevorkian dies of natural causes in a hospital, one day short of the 21st anniversary of his first publicized suicide.

March 11: Dr. Peter Goodwin, who played a leading role in crafting and promoting Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act, used the law to end his life at age 83. He had a rare brain disease, corticobasal degeneration.

March 15: Plaintiffs Dr. Katherine Morris and Dr. Aroop Mangalik file a lawsuit, Morris v. New Mexico, asserting that “aid in dying” is not prohibited under New Mexico law. The Montana Board of Medical Examiners (the state's physician licensing board) declared that they would treat physician assisted suicide like any other medical procedure.

April: Godelieva De Troyer (64), a perfectly healthy Belgian woman who suffered from chronic depression, was euthanized at the medical center at the Free University of Brussels.

December 14: Identical twins, Marc & Eddy Verbessem, age 45, committed suicide together with the help of a physician in Belgium after learning they were going blind. Neither was terminally ill.

February 7: The New Jersey Assembly Health & Senior Services Committee approved a death-with-dignity bill 7-2.

February 15, Montana state representatives introduce legislation outlawing physician assisted suicide. The bill is defeated.

March 20: More than 100 people testified in support of the HB 6645, a “Death with Dignity” bill in the Connecticut Legislature, with the last witness testifying at 1:30 a.m. Knowing that the bill would clear committee, opponents threatened a filibuster, halting the bill for the 2013 session.

May 20: Vermont becomes the fourth state to legalize assisted suicide and the first in the nation to do so through a legislative vote and signature of the governor (Oregon & Washington approved their law through statewide ballot votes, Montana's “legalization” was by a court ruling). The Pennsylvania Attorney General charges Barbara Mancini for assisting the suicide of her 93-year-old, terminally ill father Joe Yourshaw.

March 2: Belgium lifts all age restrictions on assisted suicide.

July: The Austrailian Medical Board moves to suspend the license of Dr. Philip Nitschke after revelations that he provided information to a Western Austrailian man, Nigel Brayley, on how to commit suicide, including how to import a lethal drug Nembutal into the country.

October: The case of Brittany Maynard sparks a national debate. Maynard was a California resident diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. She and her family moved to Portland because Oregon had legal assisted suicide. On October 6th, she posted a video about her decision. She took her life on November 1.

December: Netherlands began reviewing possibilities to allow victims of euthanasia to become organ donors.

January 2: A report was released stating that doctors had euthanized 650 infants in accordance with the Netherland’s assisted suicide law.

February 6: Canadian Supreme Court strikes down Canadian laws banning assisted suicide.

May 14: A Minnesota jury convicted members of the suicide assistance group Final Exit Network for breaking the state’s assisted suicide ban in the 2007 death of Doreen Dunn. Mrs. Dunn's death was originally considered “natural.” Suspicions about the real cause of her death arose much later, resulting in the arrest and trial taking place years after her death.

April 28: The Colombian Health Ministry finally issues guidelines on how physicians may act to euthanize patients consistent with the Colombian constitutional court's 1997 ruling that patient's have a right to be killed on request. Prior to the guidelines most doctors were afraid to participate in euthanasia even with the court ruling in place. The first euthanasia under the guidelines was reported to have occurred a few months later in July 2015. Columbia joined three other nations, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in allowing euthanasia.

June 4: California Senate passes SB 168 which would legalize assisted suicide.

June 19: It was announced that a perfectly healthy 24-year-old Belgian woman, known only as “Laura,” would die by assisted suicide due to the fact that she had contemplated suicide since she was young. A psychiatrist examined Laura and decided that although she could be treated for chronic depression, her best option was suicide.

July 7: The chairman of a California Assembly committee indicated that SB 168 to legalize assisted suicide was effectively dead for the current legislative session as not enough votes in favor of the bill could be counted among Assembly Democrats.

Also on this day, Austrailian Northern Territory Supreme Court Judge Graham Hiley (a regional appeals court, not the national supreme court) ruled that the Austrailian Medical Board had not followed proper procedures nor provided sufficient evidence to suspend Dr. Philip Nitschke's medical license in relation to the death of Nigel Brayley. This ruling would allow Nitschke to re-apply for his license, which he said he was disinclined to do as he was currently not practicing medicine, but heading up the pro-euthanasia organization, EXIT.

August 11: New Mexico Court of Appeals handed a defeat to the right-to-die movement by striking down a lower-court ruling establishing physician-assisted suicide. In January 2014, a district court judge rulled that mentally competent, terminally ill patients have a constitutional right to seek a physician's assistance in ending their own lives.

August 24: Minnesota judge fines the national right-to-die group Final Exit Network $30,000 for assisting in a woman's 2007 suicide. Assisted suicide is not legal in Minnesota.

September 11: Right to die legislation in England and Wales was overwhelmingly rejected.  For the first time in 20 years, the subject of ending life with medical supervision saw passionate debate in Parliament. 118 members voted to support right to die legislation while 330 members voted to reject it.

September 11: The End of Life Option Act (AB 15) was passed by the State Assembly in California.  It now sits on Governor Jerry Brown's desk for either approval or veto.  This assisted sucide bill is the 8th attempt in California to pass such legislation.  If the governor takes no action, the bill becomes law in 30 days. If it becomes law, California will be the fifth state to approve assisted suicide.  Vermont, Oregon, Washington and Montana already allow doctor assisted suicide.

October 5:  Governor Jerry Brown of California signed Assembly Bill 15 into law which makes California the 5th state in the union to allow doctor assisted suicide.  Assisted Suicide legislation had failed 6 times in California since 1988. 

October 24: French physician, Nicolas Bonnemaison, a 54 year-old suspended emergency room doctor, was given a 2 year suspended sentence by the court of appeals for deliberately killing an 86 year-old woman. He had been accused of killing 7 patients between 2010 and 2011, but was acquitted in a trial court on 6/24/14. Prosecutors appealed, but succeeded in only the one case, obtaining only the suspended sentence. Bonnemaison is pursuing reinstatement of his medical license.

October 26: The Austrailian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (equivalent to a U.S. medical board) acted to formalize an unprecendented 25 restrictions on the license of Dr. Philip Nitschke for his ongoing involvement in suicide advocacy and facilitation. Nitschke had agreed in principle to the restrictions back in September to avoid what he called "weeks of costly tribunal hearings." Among the restrictions, eliminating all ties to the euthanasia-facilitating group Exit and eliminating advocacy videos from the internet.

October 28: The Canadian-based Euthanasia Prevention Coaltion called on the Canadian national government and the Ontario provincial government to investigate a newly launched website by the organization Exit International. The website, operated from Ontario, offers to provide (sell) suicide drugs, devices, information and guidebooks.

October 30: The Belgian Euthanasia Commission, charged with watchdogging euthanasia practices in Belgium, for the first time has referred a physician to the Justice Deparment for violations of the 2002 law protecting physicians who participate in euthanasia. Dr. Marc Van Hoey, who is chair of the pro-ethanasia group, Right to Die with Dignity, euthanized 85 year-old Simone de Moor, because the physically healthy woman could not cope with her daughter's death. The case had been well-known because Van Hoey agreed to have the killing to be filmed by the Austrailian news program Dateline.

December 3: A Quebec, Canada, Superior Court justice put the scheduled December 10 implementation of a euthanasia law on hold after finding the plan was in conflict with federal law. The province of Quebec passed a law in 2014 legalzing assisted suicide and euthanasia, which was set to take effect on 12/10/15. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled in Carter v. Canada on 2/6/15 that there was a right to euthanasia, and gave the federal parliament one year to pass a law implementing rules and regulations. Parliament has been slow to respond and requested a 6-month extension on finishing a law to comply with the federal Supreme Court's ruling.


January 7: The Dutch Ministries of Public Health, Security and Justice released its new "guide" for euthanasia allowing for the killing of patients with severe dementia, if they previously declared a desire to be euthanized at some unnamed point in the future, regardless of whether they can affirm a present wish to die. In simple terms, "If you wrote it once, you can be euthanized later, when doctors decide it's time for you to go."

Back to top of page

© RIGHT TO LIFE OF MICHIGAN, 2340 PORTER ST SW, PO BOX 901, GRAND RAPIDS, MI 49509-0901, (616) 532-2300