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Euthanasia

By | March 2013
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Euthanasia
Like other terms borrowed from history, "euthanasia" has had different meanings depending on usage. The first apparent usage of the term "euthanasia" belongs to the historian Suetonius who described how the Emperor Augustus, "dying quickly and without suffering in the arms of his wife, Livia, experienced the 'euthanasia' he had wished for."[5] The word "euthanasia" was first used in a medical context by Francis Bacon in the 17th century, to refer to an easy, painless, happy death, during which it was a "physician's responsibility to alleviate the 'physical sufferings' of the body." Bacon referred to an "outward euthanasia"—the term "outward" he used to distinguish from a spiritual concept—the euthanasia "which regards the preparation of the soul."[6] In current usage, one approach to defining euthanasia has been to mirror Suetonius, regarding it as the "painless inducement of a quick death".[7] However, it is argued that this approach fails to properly define euthanasia, as it leaves open a number of possible actions which would meet the requirements of the definition, but would not be seen as euthanasia. In particular, these include situations where a person kills another, painlessly, but for no reason beyond that of personal gain; or accidental deaths which are quick and painless, but not intentional.[8][9] Thus another approach is to incorporate the notion of suffering into the definition.[8] The definition offered by the Oxford English Dictionary incorporates suffering as a necessary condition, with "the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma",[10] and this approach can be seen as a part of other works, such as Marvin Khol and Paul Kurtz's "a mode or act of inducing or permitting death painlessly as a relief from suffering".[11] However, focusing on this approach to defining euthanasia may also lead to counterexamples: such definitions may encompass killing a person suffering from...
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