The topic, or more commonly known as the controversy, of euthanasia has been talked about for many years. This controversial issue should not be taken lightly due to the moral, religious, ethical, legal, and compassionate arguments that have surfaced. A lot of the moral arguments are basically trying to get people to understand that euthanasia is a gateway to murder and an easy way out like suicide. The procedures used are not always painless nor are they necessary.
Euthanasia, by definition, is “the act or practice of killing or permitting death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy (Euthanasia 1).” Currently, euthanasia itself is illegal in all of the United States. However, physician aid-in-dying (PAD) or assisted suicide is now legal in the states of Washington, Oregon, and Montana. Assisted suicide is interpreted in so many different ways (Balch 1). The most common and accepted interpretation is “The intentional hastening of death by a terminally ill patient with assistance from a doctor, relative, or any other person”. 2) Most people believe euthanasia and assisted suicide are the same thing but they are not (Nordqvist 2). The key difference between the two is who actually administers the lethal dose of medication. Euthanasia has the physician or another third party administer the lethal dose, whereas, assisted suicide has the assistance of a physician or third party but requires the patient to self-administer the lethal dose themselves. The patient must decide whether and when to do this (Balch1).
Euthanasia is classified in many different ways using several different terms. Active and passive euthanasia are just two of those classifications. Active euthanasia is administering the lethal medication which “actively” ends that person’s life. Passive euthanasia is when the medication that is keeping a person alive is stopped or simply not performing a life saving procedure at all. These two classifications carry very different moral and social issues (Biswas 20).
Non voluntary, involuntary, and voluntary euthanasia are also terms used to classify euthanasia. Non voluntary euthanasia is when a person is unable and can not express their choice of early death. They must use some sort of proxy request to have their life ended. For example, a doctor may have a terminally ill newborn or a patient that is senile and incompetent. In both these cases the decision to end life is left up to a third party because the patient is unable to make the decision on their own. This form of euthanasia is the one that is of most concern to medical professionals (Biswas 20).
Involuntary euthanasia differs from non voluntary euthanasia in that it does not require a personal invitation or proxy request. Simply put, it is the ending of a life to “relieve the suffering.” This is also the classification where a criminal’s execution would be listed. There have also been cases where involuntary euthanasia was the most socially acceptable option at the time (Balch 1). The latter is a good example and should serve as a warning to those who would give more power over life and death to the medical professionals. This class of euthanasia appears to be merely a justification for murder (Biswas 20).
Voluntary euthanasia is when the patient specifically asks for their life to be ended and requests help to make it happen. This class is the most controversial of them all. Voluntary euthanasia is in essence assisted suicide or PAD. The majority of the time the request must come from a person who is either 1) in an enormous amount of pain, or 2) someone who is diagnosed with an illness that is determined to be fatal. In either case, the decision must be their own and can not be the result of being pressured in to it by a family member or medical professional. This form of euthanasia can be carried out before the actual illness