Free Euthanasia and Doctor-Assisted Suicide Essay - Assisted Suicide

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The purpose of this essay is to inform readers clearly and coherently enoughof the terms and issues in the euthanasia debate that they can make sense of the euthanasia question. Descriptions are in relatively simple, non-technical language to facilitate learning.

The definition of euthanasia is simple: "Easy, painless death." But the concept of euthanasia proposed by adherents of the euthanasia movement is complex and has profound consequences for all. Because the subject involves the discipline of medicine (diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, medical ethics and so on) as well as the discipline of law, the general public will have difficulty understanding it without some knowledge of these matters.

We begin with the definition of terms:

* Euthanasia: traditionally, an easy, painless death. Now used to mean "mercy killing," "assisted suicide," or "involuntary euthanasia."

* Voluntary euthanasia: death administered to one who asks for it. In practice, truly voluntary euthanasia requests may be very rare, since the patient rarely gives informed consent because the alleged consent is influenced by depression, improperly treated pain or other factors that are not controlled but could be controlled.

* Involuntary euthanasia: death administered without the recipient's consent, commonly known as "mercy killing," as in the case of children or incompetent adults.

* Active, direct or positive euthanasia: direct killing of the patient by administering lethal drugs or other direct means of ending life, or by withholding or withdrawing ordinary means of sustaining life such as food and water, protection from exposure and so on.

* Passive, indirect or negative euthanasia: ambiguous. Can be the decision by patient, parent or guardian and physician to withhold or withdraw extraordinary means of sustaining or prolonging life, such as deciding against high-risk surgery for a patient dying of cancer or kidney failure. When the intent is not to cause death but rather to reject extraordinary treatment, this results in the acceptance of death or continued life, whichever occurs, but it is not true euthanasia. The terms "passive," "indirect" or "negative euthanasia" should not be used since they play into the hands of euthanasia advocates by confusing legitimate actions with euthanasia, thereby desensitizing people to the fact that euthanasia is killing. More importantly, passive euthanasia is sometimes defined by others as the withholding of lifesaving treatment with the intention and result of causing the patient's death. This is the equivalent to active, direct euthanasia.

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