What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering.

Different countries have different euthanasia laws.

Euthanasia is categorized in different ways, which include voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary:

Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some countries.
Non-voluntary euthanasia (patient's consent unavailable) is illegal in all countries.
Involuntary euthanasia (without asking consent or against the patient's will) is also illegal in all countries and is usually considered murder.

Classification of euthanasia

Euthanasia may be classified into three types, according to whether a person gives informed consent: voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary.

Voluntary euthanasia

Voluntary euthanasia is conducted with the consent of the patient.

When the patient brings about their own death with the assistance of a physician, the term assisted suicide is often used instead.

Non-voluntary euthanasia

Non-voluntary euthanasia is conducted when the consent of the patient is unavailable.

Involuntary euthanasia

Involuntary euthanasia is conducted against the will of the patient.

Passive and active euthanasia

Voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary types can be further divided into passive or active variants.

Passive euthanasia entails the withholding treatment necessary for the continuance of life.

Active euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances or forces (such as administering a lethal injection), and is the more controversial.

Euthanasia: a very gentle and quiet death, which happens without painful convulsions.

Euthanasia debate

Historically, the euthanasia debate has tended to focus on a number of key concerns.

According to euthanasia opponent Ezekiel Emanuel, proponents of euthanasia have presented four main arguments:

a) that people have a right to self-determination, and thus should be allowed to choose their own fate;

b) assisting a subject to die might be a better choice than requiring that they continue to suffer;

c) the distinction between passive euthanasia, which is often permitted, and active euthanasia, which is not substantive (or that the underlying principle–the doctrine of double effect–is unreasonable or unsound);

d) permitting euthanasia will not necessarily lead to unacceptable consequences.

Legality of euthanasia

West's Encyclopedia of American Law states that "a 'mercy killing' or euthanasia is generally considered to be a criminal homicide" and is normally used as a synonym of homicide committed at a request made by the patient.