Differences Between Passive and Active Euthanasia

Topics: Euthanasia, Medical ethics, Death Pages: 9 (3367 words) Published: March 9, 2013
Differences Between Passive and Active Euthanasia

Euthanasia is one word that is part of a nationwide debate that is often wrought with resistance due to selective terms being used interchangeably to result in misunderstandings and mass confusion. These combinations of individual terms create for completely different meanings, meanings that have already been instilled into the minds of human society that contribute to misconceptions about euthanasia. Euthanasia is defined as the intentional termination of life by another at the request of the person who is to receive their right to die, instead of dying naturally. There are many correlating synonyms of “eu” good and “thanatos” death: death with dignity, mercy killing, compassion in dying, and murder are some expressed by those who support as well as those against euthanasia. One important objective that will be met is the clarification of all labels associated with euthanasia: voluntary, non-voluntary, involuntary, passive, active, and omission. It is through describing the differences between passive and active euthanasia that similarities will be unearthed while also including intent, refusal, and request. Euthanasia has been linked to physician-assisted suicide (PAS), both of which are commonly debated due to being considered morally unethical. Advancements in medical technology are requiring alteration in traditional rules and fundamental concepts that will continue to promote the greatest life for the greatest amount of people possible. Legalization of voluntary active euthanasia requires weighing all possible consequences using the utilitarian hedonic calculus to best estimate as to whether this action will result in the highest level of pleasure.

Step 1: Identify the Problem
The debate over euthanasia centers on the sanctity of human life and rights that are given to live that life. Supporters argue that the practice of euthanasia gives the means to die with dignity by receiving a good death. Those opposed to the idea of euthanasia support the passive form that is practiced daily as a means of ending life by withdrawing or withholding the use of life sustaining medical means such as ventilators, enteral nutrition, or allowing a patient to refuse medical treatment that will extend their time on earth. Passive euthanasia, or “letting die”, occurs when there is an intent to hasten the death of a person and is considered acceptable for physicians to practice, patients to choose, and families to acquiesce (Life, 2011). Passive euthanasia delivers a painstakingly slow death due to omission of life sustaining means to a patient whereas active euthanasia via a lethal injection is fast and painless. Active euthanasia is the intentional and direct form of “mercy killing” similar to physician-assisted suicide that ceases the life of an individual that had lived in fear, pain, and suffering. Supports believe that living in such means violates the quality of life. Jevon in 2009 identified additional factors that include whether an act is: 1. Voluntary: patient willingly, competently, and knowingly makes a request for euthanasia. 2. Non-voluntary: no request was made while the patient was capable and competent, or makes a request that is neither clear nor convincing. 3. Involuntary: a patient is euthanized in clear opposition to a request made when they were capable and competent. A main component to note is that both intents equal end of life for the patients; passive and active euthanasia are similar in their consequences, but are achieved by different means. It can be argued that while passive euthanasia is the accepted form in society, it is crueler to the patient than active could ever be. This leads to believing active euthanasia should be more morally permissible as a means for an easy death, but cannot be due to the ethics of our social policies and practices. Physician-assisted suicide is akin...
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