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HOME >> Diseases >> Diseases Index >> Index E >> Euthanasia



What is euthanasia?

Euthanasia can be defined as the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. This definition does not alone explain the various forms and aspects of the act. Hence various definitions are used:

* Voluntary euthanasia: When the person who is killed gives consent to be killed.
* Involuntary euthanasia: When the person who is killed is incapable of giving consent or does not give consent.
* Assisted suicide: In this case some other person or a doctor provides with an information, guidance and the means to put an end to a life. When a doctor helps another person to kill himself it is called "physician assisted suicide."
* Active euthanasia: One person deliberately kills another person.
* Passive euthanasia: There are two definitions used to explain passive euthanasia – Removal of life-sustaining medical treatment from a person at their request. Under this definition, the death of the person is not wanted but pain-relief or suffering-relief actions are taken that indirectly cause the death of the person. The other definition involves intentionally causing death by withholding or withdrawing necessary and ordinary care or food and water.

What is the difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide?
Euthanasia and assisted suicide can be distinguished by considering the act without which the death would not occur. If a third party or a person performs the last act that intentionally leads to patient’s death, then it is called euthanasia. For example, giving a patient a lethal injection or putting a plastic bag over her head to suffocate her would be considered euthanasia.

On the other hand, it is an assisted suicide when the patient himself performs an act that leads to death, but has been assisted by a doctor or some other person. Thus it would be assisted suicide if the patient dies after swallows the overdose of drug provided by his doctor for the purpose of causing death.

Is euthanasia legal?
Euthanasia is illegal in most parts of the world. The state of Oregon in the USA and The Netherlands are the only two jurisdictions in the world where laws specifically permit euthanasia or assisted suicide. Oregon permits assisted suicide. The Netherlands permits both euthanasia and assisted suicide. In India, neither act is legal.

In 1995 Australia’s Northern Territory approved a euthanasia bill. It went into effect in 1996 but was overturned by the Australian Parliament in 1997. Also, in 1997, Colombia’s Supreme Court ruled that penalties for mercy killing should be removed.

Should a person have the right to commit suicide?
About a million people commit suicide annually, worldwide. People do have the power to commit suicide but neither suicide nor an attempt to suicide is criminalised.

Suicide is an individual act but euthanasia and assisted suicide are not. As, they involve one person facilitating the death of another. This is a matter of public concern since it can lead to abuse, exploitation and erosion of care for the most vulnerable people society. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are not about giving rights to the person who dies but, instead, they are about changing public policy so that doctors or others can directly and intentionally end or participate in ending another person’s life. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are not about the right to die but about the right to kill.

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