Euthanasia

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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 ending a life in a manner which relieves pain and suffering. According to the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics, the precise definition of euthanasia is "a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering."[1]

Euthanasia is categorized in different ways, which include voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary and active or passive. Euthanasia is usually used to refer to active euthanasia, and in this sense, euthanasia is usually considered to be criminal homicide, but voluntary, passive euthanasia is widely non-criminal.

The controversy surrounding euthanasia centers around a two-pronged argument by opponents which characterizes euthanasia as either voluntary "suicides", or as involuntary murders. (Hence, opponents argue that a broad policy of "euthanasia" is tantamount to eugenics). Much hinges on whether a particular death was considered an "easy", "painless", or "happy" one, or whether it was a "wrongful death". Proponents typically consider a death that increased suffering to be "wrongful", while opponents typically consider any deliberate death as "wrongful". "Euthanasia's" original meaning introduced the idea of a "rightful death" beyond that only found in natural deaths.

Euthanasia is the most active area of research in contemporary bioethics.[2]

Contents

Etymology

Like other terms borrowed from history, the "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." [3] 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." [4]

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