The first obstacle of this paper is to clearly define euthanasia. "Euthanasia defined is the act or practice of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition, as by lethal injection or the suspension of extraordinary medical treatment." (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000) "The practice of painlessly ending the lives of people who have incurable painful or distressing diseases or handicaps. It may occur when incurably ill people ask their physician or friend or relative to put them to death or to allow them to die. It may also occur when ill people ask others to help them commit suicide. (The World Book Encyclopedia, 2004, pg.421) These are simple, or politically correct, definitions of euthanasia.
The definitions get a little more complicated when they are defined by different organizations. Euthenasia.com had several break outs and definitions on their website. They started with the basic euthanasia definition "the intentional killing by an act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. (The key word here is intentional. If death is not intended, it is not an act of euthanasia)." Voluntary euthanasia "when the person who is killed has requested to be killed." Non-voluntary euthanasia "when the person who is killed made no request and gave no consent." Involuntary euthanasia "when the person who is killed made an expressed wish to the contrary." Assisted suicide "when 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." Physician assisted suicide - "when it is a doctor who helps another person kill themselves." Euthanasia by action "intentionally causing a person's death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection." Euthanasia by omission "intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary care or food and water." (Euthanasia definitions, euthanasia.com, retrieved December 2004)
Religious Tolerance groups gave the definition a historical twist. It originated from the Greek words eu (good) and thanatos (death). " the intentional termination of life by another at the explicit request of the person who dies. That is, the term euthanasia normally implies that the act must be initiated by the person who wishes to commit suicide. However, some people define euthanasia to include both voluntary and involuntary termination of life." The most common form of euthanasia is when a patient is given large doses morphine to ease pain, but the likelihood is that the pain-killer will suppress breathing and cause an earlier death that would have happened otherwise. Such doses of pain killers carry dual roles of suppressing pain and hastening death. (Meaning of terms, religioustolerance.org, retrieved December 2004)
Death and Dying classifies euthanasia a little differently than the previous definitions. Active euthanasia "the hastening or death through the administration of lethal drugs as requested by the patient or another competent individual" and passive euthanasia "foregoing medical...