Expert working group appointed to examine end-of-life care and euthanasia

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 5.6.2018 13.10
Press release 84/2018

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has appointed a working group to examine regulatory needs concerning good end-of-life care and patients' right to self-determination as well as terminal care and euthanasia. End-of-life care encompasses palliative care, meaning treatment aimed at providing relief from symptoms, and terminal care.

As is the case in most European countries, euthanasia is prohibited by law in Finland. However, there are some countries, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Colombia and Canada, where currently valid legislation allows for euthanasia or assisted suicide.

“The appointment of the working group is a response to the need highlighted in the citizens’ initiative concerning euthanasia that was submitted to Parliament,” states Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Annika Saarikko.

The aim of the citizens’ initiative was to help dying and suffering individuals who wish to receive assistance in dying of their own free will in a situation where medical treatment can no longer provide adequate help. The initiative also called for the availability of high-quality palliative care and terminal care to be comprehensively secured throughout Finland. Parliament dismissed the actual initiative in May 2018, but called for the appointment of a broad-based expert working group to examine the matter further.

 “I am glad that we have been able to respond to Parliament’s wishes so quickly here at the ministry by launching a comprehensive examination of end-of-life care. There are many ethical questions associated with end-of-life care, one of the most important of which is the equality of citizens in regard to admission to care,” states Minister Saarikko.

Working group to continue working until mid-summer 2021

In the first phase, the working group will form an overview of the social and health care services system and ongoing developments in regard to the arrangement of palliative care and terminal care as well as of the legislation governing end-of-life care. In addition to this, the working group will examine legislation and practices concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide in other countries.

In the second phase, the working group will conduct an initial assessment of the need for legislative changes concerning euthanasia. However, the actual need for legislative changes for allowing euthanasia can only be genuinely assessed once palliative and terminal care services have been comprehensively put into practice in Finland.

There is also a sub-working group operating under the expert working group, which is tasked with planning and steering the use of the appropriation granted by Parliament in autumn 2017. The one million euro appropriation is to be used for the development of palliative care and terminal care in special areas of responsibility as well as for organising a national training and communications campaign.

Further information

Senior Medical Officer Tuija Ikonen, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 (0)295 163 253

General Secretary Sinikka Sihvo, ETENE, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 (0)295 163 221

Senior Medical Officer Ritva Halila, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 (0)295 163 420

Information on the subject

  • Palliative care means active and comprehensive care aimed at providing relief from symptoms that is provided to a terminally ill patient and their loved ones when a terminal or life-threatening illness causes suffering to the patient or their loved ones and reduces their quality of life.
  • Terminal care is part of palliative care, which is provided in the last weeks or days of a patient’s life.