Voluntary Euthanasia Main

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Euthanasia (from the Greek: εὐθανασία meaning "good death": εὖ, eu (well or good) + θάνατος, thanatos (death)) refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering. There are different euthanasia laws in each country. The British House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics defines euthanasia as "a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering".[1] In the Netherlands, euthanasia is understood as "termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient".[2] Euthanasia is categorized in different ways, which include voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some countries and U.S. states. Non-voluntary euthanasia is illegal in all countries. Involuntary euthanasia is usually considered murder.[3] As of 2006, euthanasia is the most active area of research in contemporary bioethics.[4] Contents [show]

Definition

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 an incurable disease for personal gain (such as to claim an inheritance), and commentators such as Tom Beauchamp & Arnold Davidson have argued that doing such would constitute "murder simpliciter" rather than euthanasia.[8] The third element incorporated into many definitions is that of intentionality – the death must be intended, rather than being accidental, and the intent of the action must be a "merciful death".[8] Michael Wreen argued that “the principal thing that distinguishes euthanasia from intentional killing simpliciter is the agent's motive: it must be a good motive insofar as the good of the person killed is concerned”,[12] a view mirrored by Heather Draper, who also spoke to the importance of motive, arguing that "the motive forms a crucial part of arguments for euthanasia, because it must be in the best interests of the person on the receiving end."[9] Definitions such as that offered by the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics take this path, where euthanasia is defined as "a deliberate...
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