The right to end one's life when suffering from a fatal illness is one of the most contentious moral debates of our time. It is an increasingly common one, as more and more people deal with the reality that medical science can prolong the lives of the terminally ill, but the quality of that extended life cannot be guaranteed.
It is also a legal issue, since many terminally ill people who wish to die need help with their suicides. Those who assist suicide in many countries can be prosecuted. As society has become more secular, religious strictures on suicide seem outdated. Yet it is religion that is the historical basis for laws against assisted suicide.
There are several countries in Europe which have grappled with the legal question and changed their laws. In the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland the terminally ill can end life at a time of their own choosing, so assisting them is not a crime. The law in Britain, however, is very strict. Those who help terminally ill loved ones end their lives can be imprisoned for up to 14 years.