New research maps global assisted dying laws for the first time

19 July, 2021

A new study into worldwide laws on assisted dying has found that more than 250 million people have gained the right to die since MPs last debated proposals on changing the law. The research, carried out by Humanists UK, has been launched in map form, the first ever map of its kind, and demonstrates how far the UK’s laws are now out of kilter with the rest of the western world.

The study also uncovered two predominant models of assisted dying internationally. The first, found in New Zealand and some parts of the United States and Australia, only provides assistance to those who have six or fewer months left to live; whereas the second, found in most jurisdictions around the globe, like Austria, Canada, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, enables choice for both those who are terminally ill and incurably suffering. A similar bill is also currently under consideration in the Republic of Ireland.

Helping someone to end their life is a criminal offence and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment in England and Wales.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: 

‘The publication of this map makes it clear like never before that the UK’s laws on assisted dying are in urgent need of review. It is highly significant that in the years since our lawmakers last considered proposals on assisted dying, progressive countries around the world have continued to roll back their bans in the face of overwhelming evidence.

‘But it is also notable that on the rare occasions when assisted dying legislation has been considered in the UK Parliament, it has almost always excluded those who are incurably suffering, like Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb – which is at odds with most other jurisdictions’ laws.

‘With several more countries now having passed or looking set to pass laws which will prioritise a person’s quality – not quantity – of life, we urge lawmakers in the UK to pay close attention to the international consensus on assisted dying and immediately conduct an inquiry into the law.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Humanists UK’s map of assisted dying laws around the world is available as both a PNG and SVG and is being released by Humanists UK under a CC BY-SA 4.0 licence. It is hoped that the map may be taken up by Wikipedia and others.

Read more about our work on assisted dying:

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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