The Finnish parliament has decided to reject the popular project to legalize euthanasia by a 128 to 60 vote against the initiative. Instead, a comprehensive investigation into palliative end-of-life care will be carried out, the Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet reported.
Although a clear majority of the legislators spoke against the initiative, the complexity of the issue became apparent during plenary debates, when a consensus among the parliamentary parties was reached to set up a working group to investigate the need to change the legislation on care during the final stages of life.
A previous citizens' initiative in favor of euthanasia gathered 50,000 signatures, making it eligible for a parliamentary debate. The initiative envisaged euthanasia as an exit option for people suffering from an "incurable fatal disease," with death "likely to occur in the near future."
MP Stefan Wallin of the liberal-centrist Swedish People's Party, who has been one of the most vocal advocates of the initiative, said he was pleased with the decision to conduct an investigation into terminal care, which he called a "clear step forward in the work for better end-of-life care and dignified death."
According to Wallin, the continued euthanasia debate doesn't have to cling to the model used in the Netherlands or Belgium.
"We need a Finnish model that takes into account our ways in health care, culture and an individual's right to self-determination. Several opinion polls show that a solid majority of Finnish people and a growing proportion of the medical profession now support euthanasia. The citizens' initiative attracted over 60,000 signatories in just five weeks. As legislators, we cannot stand against these trends," Wallin said.
The pro-euthanasia initiative is supported by the SFP youth wing and a number of former MPs, including Esko Olavi Seppänen a member of the Left Alliance Party, who also served as MEP from 1996 to 2009.
In recent years, Finland has been debating the issue euthanasia, as have many other European countries. The national pro-euthanasia lobby, Exitus, has been active since the early 1990s. The public support for euthanasia is said to hover above the two-thirds mark. Support among the medical profession has also been rising in recent years, becoming level with opposition numbers for the first time in 2014.
While passive euthanasia, also known as "pulling the plug" is legal in many nations, active euthanasia is allowed in the Benelux countries, Colombia, Canada and India. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, South Korea, Japan and a handful of US states.