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The Right to Die

By | March 2005
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The Right to Die
The word Euthanasia originated from the Greek language: eu means "good" and thanatos means "death". Euthanasia (Greek, "good death") is the practice of killing a person or animal, in a painless or minimally painful way, for merciful reasons, usually to end their suffering. However, some people define euthanasia to include both voluntary and involuntary termination of life (Humphy 12). Like so many moral/ethical/religious terms, "euthanasia" has many meanings. Euthanasia, in the strict sense, involves actively causing death. This is, in some cases, legal like in the Netherlands, but in few other countries. Euthanasia, in a wider sense, includes assisting someone to commit suicide, in particular physician-assisted suicide (PAS). Allowing death -- e.g. by not providing life support or vital medication-- is not considered euthanasia if it is the patient's wish (Robinson). It is sometimes called passive euthanasia in cases where the patient is unable to make decisions about treatment. "Living Wills" and "Do Not Resuscitate" orders are legal instruments that make a patient's treatment decisions known ahead of time; allowing a patient to die based on such decisions is never considered euthanasia. Terminal sedation is a combination of medically inducing a deep sleep and stopping other treatment, with the exception of medication for symptom control (such as analgesia). It is considered to be euthanasia by some, but under current law and medical practice it is considered a form of palliative care (Humphry 14). Advocates of euthanasia generally insist that euthanasia should be voluntary, requiring informed consent, and that it should only be used in cases of terminal illness that cause unbearable suffering, or an eventual, complete loss of awareness. Its opponents challenge it on several ethical grounds, including a slippery slope argument that it is the first step towards compulsory euthanasia (Leon 22). Voluntary euthanasia is the truest and fullest form...

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