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”Right to die” gains ground in Finland

Voluntary euthanasia is slowly attracting acceptance in Finland. A prominent hospice director has come out in favour of euthanasia, saying it could be a last resort when all other treatments have been exhausted for terminally ill patients.

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One of the pioneers of Finnish hospice care, Juha Hänninen, previously opposed euthanasia but now says seeing the suffering of near-death patients firsthand changed his mind.

“It has to be the patient’s own request, when she says the pain is too much to bear,” explains Hänninen, chief physician of Terhokoti Hospice.

Physician-assisted suicide would be limited to cognizant patients. Hänninen, who also sits on a government medical ethics committee, says he believes Finnish doctors are becoming more accepting of euthanasia, but there is not much interest in the subject.

”Doctors don’t have training on how to end life,” he says.

According to Hänninen, the first step would be to establish a body to regulate euthanasia and evaluate requests on a case-by-case basis.

Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg.

Hänninen made the comments at medical community event in Oulu on Wednesday.

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