When we hear the phrase voluntary euthanasia people generally think of one of two things: the active termination of life at the patient's or the Nazi extermination program of murder. Many people have beliefs about whether euthanasia is right or wrong, often without being able to define it clearly. Some people take an extreme view, while many fall somewhere between the two camps. The derivation means gentle and easy death coming from the Greek words, eu - thanatos. Euthanasia was formerly called "mercy killing," euthanasia means intentionally making someone die, rather than allowing that person to die naturally. Put bluntly, euthanasia means killing in the name of compassion.
Euthanasia is often confused with physician-assisted suicide. Euthanasia is when one person does something that directly kills another. For example, a doctor gives a lethal injection to a patient. In assisted suicide, a non-suicidal person knowingly and intentionally provides the means or acts in some way to help a suicidal person kill himself or herself. For example, a doctor writes a prescription for poison, or someone hooks up a face mask and tubing to a canister of carbon monoxide and then instructs the suicidal person on how to push a lever so that she'll be gassed to death. For all practical purposes, any distinction between euthanasia and assisted suicide has been abandoned today.
Euthanasia in Australia (pre-1995)
In the last decade or so several Australian states and territories have taken action aimed at guaranteeing the right of adult patients of sound mind to direct that extraordinary measures to prolong life be stopped. South Australia passed the Natural Death Act in 1983, Victoria the Medical Treatment Act in 1988, the Northern Territory the Natural Death Act in 1988 and the Australian Capital Territory passed the Medical Treatment Act in 1994. NSW issued "interim guidelines" in 1993.
The afore-mentioned legislation covers the following:
1) Refusal or withdrawal of current treatment.
2) Issuing a direction for refusal of certain treatment in the event that the patient becomes incompetent to make decisions. 3) Appointing an agent to make decisions on refusal of treatment in the event that the patient becomes incompetent to make decisions.
Though these legislative guidelines deal with the rights of a patient to refuse current medical treatment, it is often doubted whether they make a considerable difference to medical practice. Even without the legislation, the right of patients to withhold consent to treatment was generally accepted.
Suicide is legal in all Australian states and territories. If you want to kill yourself, you can do so. No one has any right to stop you, unless they can show adequate proof of insanity. Various popular books are available which even give details of reliable methods in which to end ones life. If a person says he/she wishes to die, and is not immobilised by disease, yet continues to remain alive, he/she is clearly not serious about wishing to die, but has expressed a false wish. However, some people who wish to commit suicide are incapacitated to such an extent that they would be unable to commit suicide without assistance. Killing a person in these circumstances can be described as "voluntary euthanasia".
Both mental and physical incapacity are relevant. Solutions, which have been proposed to address impediments preventing suicide, arising from various forms of incapacity, are listed below: 1) A person is mentally competent but physically incapacitated. Euthanasia laws would provide for the person to issue a formal request to be killed, and make it legal for some other person to do the killing. 2) Person is mentally incompetent to make decisions:
Euthanasia laws would provide for a person who is mentally...