Euthanasia is one of the most controversial and emotionally charged issues in the media today. It is a topic that is within the domains of religion, law, sociology, healthcare, humanity and human dignity. No one seems to have a moderate opinion about euthanasia; it seems to engender extremely strong opinions in favor of euthanasia or equally strong opinions against it. Many who are close to the subject feel that the law is out of sync with the needs of society; others feel that euthanasia is not a legal issue at all, but should remain the purvey of individuals and their families, anchored in the basic doctrine of human dignity. Even the Supreme Court has remained somewhat distant from the topic, presumably wanting to avoid a formal encounter similar Roe v. Wade for abortion. Because of the history of discordance between pro and con factions and the reasonable — albeit passionate — arguments made by both proponents and opponents, it is likely that the controversy surrounding euthanasia will never be resolved, or completely legislated. Euthanasia Vocabulary and Definitions
The following definitions were derived not only from the dictionary, but also from a wealth of published materials from various interest groups. •Euthanasia: “the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit” [Dictionary.com] •Voluntary euthanasia: “when the person who is killed has requested to be killed.” [Dictionary.com] •Non-voluntary euthanasia: “when the person who is killed made no request and gave no consent.” [Dictionary.com] •Involuntary euthanasia: “when the person who is killed made an expressed wish to the contrary.” [Dictionary.com] •Assisted suicide: “someone provides an individual with the information, guidance, and means to take his or her own life with the intention that they will be used for this purpose. When it is a doctor who helps another person to kill themselves it is called ‘physician assisted suicide.’ [Dictionary.com] •Euthanasia by Action: “intentionally causing a person's death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection” [Dictionary.com] •Euthanasia by Omission: “intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary care or food and water” [Dictionary.com] There is no euthanasia unless the death is intentionally caused by what was done or not done. Thus, some medical actions that are often labeled "passive euthanasia" are not true examples of euthanasia, since the intention to take life is lacking. In fact, these are part of good medical practice, endorsed by law, when they are properly carried out. It is easier to understand the current status of euthanasia by reviewing its history and the evolution of thought that surrounds it. History of Euthanasia
In approximately 400 BC, the Hippocratic Oath may have been the first written testament to attitude about euthanasia. Hippocrates wrote, “I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel." [Information for Research on Euthanasia, Physician-assisted Suicide, Living Wills and Mercy Killing] Then in a U. S. Supreme Court ruling in the 1997 (Washington v. Glucksberg), an opinion written by Chief Justice Rehnquist summarized the current environment with regard to euthanasia, “More specifically, for over 700 years, the Anglo American common law tradition has punished or otherwise disapproved of both suicide and assisting suicide." [Information for Research on Euthanasia, Physician-assisted Suicide, Living Wills and Mercy Killing]
In 1828, the earliest American statute explicitly outlawing assisting suicide can be found; it stated that suicide is a grievous offense (although not a criminal act) and actively prohibited anyone from assisting another person’s suicide. In fact, the earliest American statute explicitly to outlaw assisting suicide was enacted in New York in 1828, (Act of Dec. 10, 1828, ch. 20, §4, 1828 N. Y. Laws 19, pt. 4,...