Last updated more than 5 years ago
Luxembourg law on euthanasia and assisted suicide offers patients the option to die when their suffering is considered to be unbearable. Thus, patients in this situation are given the freedom to choose how their lives will end, and the doctors who agree to comply with their request for euthanasia or assisted suicide are protected from prosecution. Indeed, there are strict legal conditions for ensuring the transparency and control of medical procedures to end life voluntarily.
For the purposes of legal application, euthanasia is defined by law as a medical act whereby a doctor intentionally ends the life of another person, at that person's express and deliberate request. Assisted suicide, in the same conditions, consists of helping another person to end their own life, in particular by providing them with the means of doing so.
In all cases, before euthanasia or assisted suicide can be performed, the doctor must fulfil certain formal and procedural conditions (e.g., conduct several interviews with the patient, etc.). If they object for reasons of conscience, the doctor in question may refuse to perform euthanasia or assisted suicide. In that case, they are obliged to inform the patient and/or their appointed 'person of trust' within 24 hours, specifying the reasons for their refusal.
Who is concerned
Requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide may be filed by anyone:
- who has an incurable medical condition arising as a result of an accident or illness. The cause of the incurable medical condition is irrelevant. The patient's health problems may result from any serious, incurable and irreversible affliction which leads to unbearable physical or mental suffering;
- who wishes to make end-of-life arrangements to avoid having to confront such a situation in the future.
Patients who reside abroad and have a GP (general practitioner) in Luxembourg may make end-of-life arrangements and have them recorded in their medical file. There are no residency or nationality conditions attached to having such information recorded in one's medical file, or to any of the other fundamental and formal conditions. However, the GP in question must have been the patient's doctor for a sufficiently long, continuous period of time.
For a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide to be considered legal, the patient must:
- be conscious at the time of the request;
- be of legal age with legal capacity to make their own decisions (i.e., they must not have been ruled incapable of making their own decisions by the court);
- have made the decision without any outside pressure;
- have an incurable medical condition, with no prospect of improvement, arising as a result of an accident or illness;
- be undergoing constant and unbearable physical and/or mental suffering as a result of that condition, with no hope of improvement.
How to proceed
Requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide in case of an advanced illness
The usual case is a direct request for euthanasia by the patient themselves. The request must be made by a patient who is of legal age, with full legal capacity, and conscious at the time of application, whose medical state meets all the conditions required for performing euthanasia.
The patient's direct request must be expressed in writing, mentioning all their personal details, and be dated and signed.
If the patient is permanently physically incapable of writing and signing the request (owing to paralysis, for example), the latter can be formalised in writing by a person of legal age of the patient's choice, in the presence of the patient's GP, whose name must appear in the document. The person chosen by the patient must specify in the document that the patient is permanently physically incapable of writing the request themselves, stating the reason for that incapability, and sign and date the request. The document does not need to be formally recorded.
The patient may withdraw their request at any time. In that case, it will be taken out of their medical file and returned to the patient.
Advance request for euthanasia or assisted suicide in the form of 'end-of-life arrangements'
‘End-of-life arrangements’ are a euthanasia request made in advance, in anticipation of the possibility that the patient could, at some later point in their life, find themselves in an irreversible state of unconsciousness—irreversible from the point of view of scientific knowledge at the time—or suffer from the incurable effects of a serious accident or illness, considered as irreversible from the point of view of scientific knowledge at that time.
Any person of legal age having full legal capacity may, in anticipation of a situation where they are no longer able to express their will, set down in writing, as their end-of-life arrangements, the circumstances and conditions in which they wish to undergo euthanasia.
End-of-life arrangements may also include a specific section where the declarant sets out the specific arrangements to be made for their burial/cremation, etc., and for their funeral ceremony.
In drafting their end-of-life arrangements, any person may appoint a 'person of trust' of legal age. The 'person of trust' will be the patient's spokesperson if the patient can no longer express their wishes. The role of the 'person of trust' is not to express their own personal opinion, but instead to inform the GP of the patient's wishes in accordance with their last declarations on the subject.
Writing one's end-of-life arrangements
The end-of-life arrangements must be set out in writing, and dated and signed by the patient in question, unless that person is permanently physically unable to write and sign the declaration.
If the person in question is permanently physically unable to write and sign their end-of-life arrangements, their wishes may be formalised by a person of legal age of their choice in the presence of 2 witnesses. In that case, the end-of-life arrangements must specify that the patient is incapable of writing and signing the document, and mention the reasons why.
The end-of-life arrangements must be dated and signed by the person who wrote the declaration, the witnesses and, where applicable, by the 'person of trust'. A medical certificate attesting to the patient's permanent physical incapacity must be attached to the end-of-life arrangements.
Changing one's end-of-life arrangements
A person's end-of-life arrangements may be restated, withdrawn or updated at any time. Such changes must be recorded. However, the patient's last known wishes always take precedence, and euthanasia must not be performed if the doctor becomes aware of an expression of the patient's will, occurring after the duly recorded end-of-life arrangements, in which they retract their wishes to undergo euthanasia.
Having one's end-of-life arrangements legally recorded
The end-of-life arrangements, and any changes to them, must be legally recorded with the National Control and Assessment Committee (Commission nationale de contrôle et d'évaluation).
There is no time limit on the validity of a person's end-of-life arrangements, but the National Control and Assessment Committee is required to seek confirmation of the patient's wishes once every 5 years from the date of filing.
Forms / Online services
End-of-life provisions for an adult person capable of drafting, dating and signing the document
Dispositions de fin de vie pour une personne majeure capable de rédiger, dater et signer le document
Bestimmungen zum Lebensende für einen Erwachsenen, der in der Lage ist, das Dokument abzufassen, zu datieren und zu unterzeichnen
End-of-life provisions for a capable adult person who is permanently physically unable to draft and sign these provisions
Dispositions de fin de vie pour une personne majeure capable qui est dans l'impossibilité physique permanente de rédiger et signer ces dispositions
Bestimmungen zum Lebensende für einen handlungsfähigen Erwachsenen, der dauerhaft physisch nicht in der Lage ist, die Bestimmungen abzufassen und zu unterzeichnen
Déclaration officielle d'une euthanasie sur base de dispositions de fin de vie
Déclaration officielle d'une euthanasie sur base d'une demande d'euthanasie ou d'assistance au suicide