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{{short description |Practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering}}{{About|euthanasia of humans|mercy killings performed on other animals|Animal euthanasia|The Megadeth album|Youthanasia}}{{pp-semi-protected|small= yes}}{{Use British English|date= August 2015}}{{wikt | euthanasia}}{{Euthanasia}}{{homicide}}Euthanasia (from ; "good death": εὖ, eu; "well" or "good" + θάνατος, thanatos; "death") is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering.WEB, Philosopher Helga Kuhse: "'Euthanasia' is a compound of two Greek words – eu and thanatos meaning, literally, 'a good death'. Today, 'euthanasia' is generally understood to mean the bringing about of a good death – 'mercy killing,' where one person, A, ends the life of another person, B, for the sake of B.",weblink Euthanasia,, 2017-07-06, live,weblink" title="">weblink 5 August 2017, dmy-all, BOOK,weblink Voluntary Euthanasia (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy),, 2019-05-07, Voluntary Euthanasia, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2018, When a person performs an act of euthanasia, she brings about the death of another person because she believes the latter's present existence is so bad that he would be better off dead, or believes that unless she intervenes and ends his life, his life will very soon become so bad that he would be better off dead., Different countries have different euthanasia laws. 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".JOURNAL, Harris, NM., The euthanasia debate, J R Army Med Corps, 147, 3, 367–70, October 2001, 11766225, 10.1136/jramc-147-03-22, In the Netherlands and Belgium, euthanasia is understood as "termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient".Euthanasia and assisted suicide {{webarchive|url=weblink" title="">weblink |date= 19 July 2011 }} BBC. Last reviewed June 2011. Accessed 25 July 2011. Archived from the original The Dutch law however, does not use the term 'euthanasia' but includes the concept under the broader definition of "assisted suicide and termination of life on request".BOOK, Carr, Claudia, Unlocking Medical Law and Ethics, 2014, Routledge, 9781317743514, 374, 2nd,weblink 2 February 2018, Euthanasia is categorized{{by whom?|date=May 2019}} in different ways, which include voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary:Voluntary and involuntary euthanasia {{webarchive|url= |date=5 September 2011 }} BBC Accessed 12 February 2012. Archived from the original {{As of | 2006}} euthanasia had become the most active area of research in bioethics.JOURNAL
, Borry P, Schotsmans P, Dierickx K
, Empirical research in bioethical journals. A quantitative analysis
, J Med Ethics, 32, 4
, 240–45, April 2006
, 16574880, 2565792, 10.1136/jme.2004.011478
, In some countries divisive public controversy occurs over the moral, ethical, and legal issues associated with euthanasia. Passive euthanasia (known as "pulling the plug") is legal under some circumstances in many countries. Active euthanasia, however, is legal or de facto legal in only a handful of countries (for example: Belgium, Canada and Switzerland), which limit it to specific circumstances and require the approval of counselors and doctors or other specialists. In some countries - such as Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - support for active euthanasia is almost non-existent.


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."Philippe Letellier, chapter: History and Definition of a Word, in Euthanasia: Ethical and Human Aspects By Council of Europe 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."Francis Bacon: The Major Works by Francis Bacon, edited by Brian Vickers, p. 630.In current usage, euthanasia has been defined as the "painless inducement of a quick death".BOOK, Kohl, Marvin, 1974, The Morality of Killing, Humanities Press, New York, 94, , quoted in Beauchamp & Davidson (1979), p 294. A similar definition is offered by Blackburn (1994) with "the action of causing the quick and painless death of a person, or not acting to prevent it when prevention was within the agent's powers." 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 that are quick and painless, but not intentional.JOURNAL, Beauchamp, Tom L., Tom Beauchamp, Davidson, Arnold I., Arnold Davidson, 1979, The Definition of Euthanasia, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 4, 3, 294–312, 10.1093/jmp/4.3.294, 501249, BOOK, Draper, Heather, 1998, Euthanasia, Chadwick, Ruth, Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, 2, Academic Press, Another approach incorporates the notion of suffering into the definition. 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",WEB, euthanasia, Oxford Dictionaries, April 2010, Oxford University Press,weblink 26 April 2011, live,weblink" title="">weblink 21 August 2011, dmy-all, This approach is included in Marvin Khol and Paul Kurtz's definition of it as "a mode or act of inducing or permitting death painlessly as a relief from suffering".BOOK, Kohl, Marvin, Kurtz, Paul, 1975, A Plea for Beneficient Euthanasia, Kohl, Marvin, Beneficient Euthanasia, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York, 94, , quoted in Beauchamp & Davidson (1979), p 295. Counterexamples can be given: 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 and Arnold Davidson have argued that doing so would constitute "murder simpliciter" rather than euthanasia.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". 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."JOURNAL, Wreen, Michael, 1988, The Definition of Euthanasia, 2108012, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 48, 10.2307/2108012, 4, 637–53 [639], Likewise, James Field argued that euthanasia entails a sense of compassion towards the patient, in contrast to the diverse non-compassionate motives of serial killers who work in health care professions.THESIS, Field, John, October 2007, Caring to Death: a discursive analysis of nurses who murder patients, Ph.D. thesis, Chapter 6, University of Adelaide,weblink September 18, 2019, Similarly, Heather Draper speaks 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." 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 intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering." Beauchamp and Davidson also highlight Baruch Brody's "an act of euthanasia is one in which one person ... (A) kills another person (B) for the benefit of the second person, who actually does benefit from being killed".BOOK, Brody, Baruch, 1975, Voluntary Euthanasia and the Law, Kohl, Marvin, Beneficient Euthanasia, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York, 94, , quoted in Beauchamp & Davidson (1979), p 295.Draper argued that any definition of euthanasia must incorporate four elements: an agent and a subject; an intention; a causal proximity, such that the actions of the agent lead to the outcome; and an outcome. Based on this, she offered a definition incorporating those elements, stating that euthanasia "must be defined as death that results from the intention of one person to kill another person, using the most gentle and painless means possible, that is motivated solely by the best interests of the person who dies."BOOK, Draper, Heather, 1998, Euthanasia, Chadwick, Ruth, Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, 2, Academic Press, 176, Prior to Draper, Beauchamp and Davidson had also offered a definition that includes these elements. Their definition specifically discounts fetuses to distinguish between abortions and euthanasia:JOURNAL, Beauchamp, Tom L., Tom Beauchamp, Davidson, Arnold I., Arnold Davidson, 1979, The Definition of Euthanasia, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 4, 3, 303, 10.1093/jmp/4.3.294, 501249, }}Wreen, in part responding to Beauchamp and Davidson, offered a six-part definition:}}Wreen also considered a seventh requirement: "(7) The good specified in (6) is, or at least includes, the avoidance of evil", although as Wreen noted in the paper, he was not convinced that the restriction was required.JOURNAL, Wreen, Michael, 1988, The Definition of Euthanasia, 2108012, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 48, 10.2307/2108012, 4, 637–53 [645], In discussing his definition, Wreen noted the difficulty of justifying euthanasia when faced with the notion of the subject's "right to life". In response, Wreen argued that euthanasia has to be voluntary, and that "involuntary euthanasia is, as such, a great wrong". Other commentators incorporate consent more directly into their definitions. For example, in a discussion of euthanasia presented in 2003 by the European Association of Palliative Care (EPAC) Ethics Task Force, the authors offered: "Medicalized killing of a person without the person's consent, whether nonvoluntary (where the person is unable to consent) or involuntary (against the person's will) is not euthanasia: it is murder. Hence, euthanasia can be voluntary only."JOURNAL, 2003, Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: a view from an EAPC Ethics Task Force, Palliative Medicine (journal), Palliative Medicine, 17, 97–101, 10.1191/0269216303pm673oa, 12701848, Materstvedt, Lars Johan, Clark, David, Ellershaw, John, Førde, Reidun, Boeck Gravgaard, Anne-Marie, Müller-Busch, Christof, Porta i Sales, Josep, Rapin, Charles-Henri, 2,, Although the EPAC Ethics Task Force argued that both non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia could not be included in the definition of euthanasia, there is discussion in the literature about excluding one but not the other.

Classification of euthanasia

Euthanasia may be classified into three types, according to whether a person gives informed consent: voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary.JOURNAL, Perrett RW, Buddhism, euthanasia and the sanctity of life, J Med Ethics, 22, 5, 309–13, October 1996, 8910785, 1377066, 10.1136/jme.22.5.309, BOOK, LaFollette, Hugh, Ethics in practice: an anthology, Blackwell, Oxford, 2002, 25–26, 978-0-631-22834-9,weblink There is a debate within the medical and bioethics literature about whether or not the non-voluntary (and by extension, involuntary) killing of patients can be regarded as euthanasia, irrespective of intent or the patient's circumstances. In the definitions offered by Beauchamp and Davidson and, later, by Wreen, consent on the part of the patient was not considered as one of their criteria, although it may have been required to justify euthanasia.JOURNAL, Wreen, Michael, 1988, The Definition of Euthanasia, 2108012, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 48, 637–53, 10.2307/2108012, 4, However, others see consent as essential.

Voluntary euthanasia

{{see also|Right to die}}Voluntary euthanasia is conducted with the consent of the patient. Active voluntary euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Passive voluntary euthanasia is legal throughout the US per Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health. When the patient brings about his or her own death with the assistance of a physician, the term assisted suicide is often used instead. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and the U.S. states of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.

Non-voluntary euthanasia

Non-voluntary euthanasia is conducted when the consent of the patient is unavailable. Examples include child euthanasia, which is illegal worldwide but decriminalised under certain specific circumstances in the Netherlands under the Groningen Protocol.

Involuntary euthanasia

Involuntary euthanasia is conducted against the will of the patient.

Passive and active euthanasia

Voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary types can be further divided into passive or active variants.JOURNAL, 10.1056/NEJM197501092920206, Rachels J, Active and passive euthanasia, N. Engl. J. Med., 292, 2, 78–80, January 1975, 1109443, dmy-all, Passive euthanasia entails the withholding treatment necessary for the continuance of life. Active euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances or forces (such as administering a lethal injection), and is the more controversial. While some authors consider these terms to be misleading and unhelpful, they are nonetheless commonly used. In some cases, such as the administration of increasingly necessary, but toxic doses of painkillers, there is a debate whether or not to regard the practice as active or passive.


File:David - The Death of Socrates.jpg|thumb|upright=1.5|The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David (1787), depicting Socrates prepared to drink hemlock, following his conviction for corrupting the youth of AthensAthensEuthanasia was practiced in Ancient Greece and Rome: for example, hemlock was employed as a means of hastening death on the island of Kea, a technique also employed in Marseilles. Euthanasia, in the sense of the deliberate hastening of a person's death, was supported by Socrates, Plato and Seneca the Elder in the ancient world, although Hippocrates appears to have spoken against the practice, writing "I will not prescribe a deadly drug to please someone, nor give advice that may cause his death" (noting there is some debate in the literature about whether or not this was intended to encompass euthanasia).JOURNAL, Mystakidou, Kyriaki, Parpa, Efi, Tsilika, Eleni, Katsouda, Emanuela, Vlahos, Lambros, 2005, The Evolution of Euthanasia and Its Perceptions in Greek Culture and Civilization, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 48, 1, 97–98, 10.1353/pbm.2005.0013, 15681882, JOURNAL, Stolberg, Michael, 2007, Active Euthanasia in Pre-ModernSociety, 1500–1800: Learned Debates and Popular Practices, Social History of Medicine, 20, 206–07, 2, 10.1093/shm/hkm034, 18605325, JOURNAL, Gesundheit, Benjamin, Steinberg, Avraham, Glick, Shimon, Or, Reuven, Jotkovitz, Alan, 2006, Euthanasia: An Overview and the Jewish Perspective, Cancer Investigation, 24, 10.1080/07357900600894898, 16982468, 6, 621–9,

Early modern period

The term euthanasia in the earlier sense of supporting someone as they died, was used for the first time by Francis Bacon. In his work, Euthanasia medica, he chose this ancient Greek word and, in doing so, distinguished between euthanasia interior, the preparation of the soul for death, and euthanasia exterior, which was intended to make the end of life easier and painless, in exceptional circumstances by shortening life. That the ancient meaning of an easy death came to the fore again in the early modern period can be seen from its definition in the 18th century Zedlers Universallexikon:Euthanasia: a very gentle and quiet death, which happens without painful convulsions. The word comes from ευ, bene, well, and θανατος, mors, death.Zedlers Universallexikon, Vol. 08, p. 1150, published 1732–54.The concept of euthanasia in the sense of alleviating the process of death goes back to the medical historian, Karl Friedrich Heinrich Marx, who drew on Bacon's philosophical ideas. According to Marx, a doctor had a moral duty to ease the suffering of death through encouragement, support and mitigation using medication. Such an "alleviation of death" reflected the contemporary zeitgeist, but was brought into the medical canon of responsibility for the first time by Marx. Marx also stressed the distinction between the theological care of the soul of sick people from the physical care and medical treatment by doctors.{{NDB|16|327|328|Marx, Karl, Mediziner|Markwart Michler|116814357}}Helge Dvorak: Biographisches Lexikon der Deutschen Burschenschaft. Vol. I, Sub-vol. 4, Heidelberg, 2000, pp. 40–41.Euthanasia in its modern sense has always been strongly opposed in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Thomas Aquinas opposed both and argued that the practice of euthanasia contradicted our natural human instincts of survival,"Historical Timeline: History of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide," {{webarchive|url= |date=5 July 2012 }} Euthanasia – Last updated on: 23 July 2013. Retrieved 4 May 2014. as did Francois Ranchin (1565–1641), a French physician and professor of medicine, and Michael Boudewijns (1601–1681), a physician and teacher.{{rp|208}}JOURNAL, Gesundheit, Benjamin, Steinberg, Avraham, Glick, Shimon, Or, Reuven, Jotkovitz, Alan, 2006, Euthanasia: An Overview and the Jewish Perspective, Cancer Investigation, 24, 10.1080/07357900600894898, 16982468, 6, 621–9, Other voices argued for euthanasia, such as John Donne in 1624,JOURNAL, Mannes, Marya, 1975, Euthanasia vs. the Right to Life, Baylor Law Review, 27, 69, and euthanasia continued to be practised. In 1678, the publication of Caspar Questel's De pulvinari morientibus non-subtrahend, ("On the pillow of which the dying should not be deprived"), initiated debate on the topic. Questel described various customs which were employed at the time to hasten the death of the dying, (including the sudden removal of a pillow, which was believed to accelerate death), and argued against their use, as doing so was "against the laws of God and Nature".{{rp|209–211}} This view was shared by others who followed, including Philipp Jakob Spener, Veit Riedlin and Johann Georg Krünitz.{{rp|211}} Despite opposition, euthanasia continued to be practised, involving techniques such as bleeding, suffocation, and removing people from their beds to be placed on the cold ground.{{rp|211–214}}Suicide and euthanasia became more accepted during the Age of Enlightenment. Thomas More wrote of euthanasia in Utopia, although it is not clear if More was intending to endorse the practice.{{rp|208–209}} Other cultures have taken different approaches: for example, in Japan suicide has not traditionally been viewed as a sin, as it is used in cases of honor, and accordingly, the perceptions of euthanasia are different from those in other parts of the world.JOURNAL, Otani, Izumi, 2010, "Good Manner of Dying" as a Normative Concept: "Autocide", "Granny Dumping" and Discussions on Euthanasia/Death with Dignity in Japan, International Journal of Japanese Society, 19, 1, 10.1111/j.1475-6781.2010.01136.x, 49–63,

Beginnings of the contemporary euthanasia debate

In the mid-1800s, the use of morphine to treat "the pains of death" emerged, with John Warren recommending its use in 1848. A similar use of chloroform was revealed by Joseph Bullar in 1866. However, in neither case was it recommended that the use should be to hasten death. In 1870 Samuel Williams, a schoolteacher, initiated the contemporary euthanasia debate through a speech given at the Birmingham Speculative Club in England, which was subsequently published in a one-off publication entitled Essays of the Birmingham Speculative Club, the collected works of a number of members of an amateur philosophical society.{{rp|794}} Williams' proposal was to use chloroform to deliberately hasten the death of terminally ill patients:
The essay was favourably reviewed in The Saturday Review, but an editorial against the essay appeared in The Spectator.BOOK, Manchester University Press, 978-0-7190-6124-0, Merciful Release, Nick Kemp, 7 September 2002, 0719061245, dmy-all, 10531689M, From there it proved to be influential, and other writers came out in support of such views: Lionel Tollemache wrote in favour of euthanasia, as did Annie Besant, the essayist and reformer who later became involved with the National Secular Society, considering it a duty to society to "die voluntarily and painlessly" when one reaches the point of becoming a 'burden'.BOOK, Ian Dowbiggin, A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine,weblink 23 June 2011, March 2007, Rowman & Littlefield, 978-0-7425-3111-6, 51, 62–64, Popular Science analyzed the issue in May 1873, assessing both sides of the argument.JOURNAL,weblink Popular Science, Corporation, Bonnier, May 1873, Kemp notes that at the time, medical doctors did not participate in the discussion; it was "essentially a philosophical enterprise ... tied inextricably to a number of objections to the Christian doctrine of the sanctity of human life".

Early euthanasia movement in the United States

missing image!
- Felix-Adler-Hine.jpeg -
upFelix Adler, circa 1913, the first prominent American to argue for permitting suicide in cases of chronic illness
The rise of the euthanasia movement in the United States coincided with the so-called Gilded Age, a time of social and technological change that encompassed an "individualistic conservatism that praised laissez-faire economics, scientific method, and rationalism", along with major depressions, industrialisation and conflict between corporations and labour unions.{{rp|794}} It was also the period in which the modern hospital system was developed, which has been seen as a factor in the emergence of the euthanasia debate.JOURNAL, Pappas, Demetra, 1996, Recent historical perspectives regarding medical euthanasia and physician assisted suicide, British Medical Bulletin, 52, 386–87, 2, 10.1093/oxfordjournals.bmb.a011554, 8759237, Robert Ingersoll argued for euthanasia, stating in 1894 that where someone is suffering from a terminal illness, such as terminal cancer, they should have a right to end their pain through suicide. Felix Adler offered a similar approach, although, unlike Ingersoll, Adler did not reject religion. In fact, he argued from an Ethical Culture framework. In 1891, Adler argued that those suffering from overwhelming pain should have the right to commit suicide, and, furthermore, that it should be permissible for a doctor to assist – thus making Adler the first "prominent American" to argue for suicide in cases where people were suffering from chronic illness.BOOK, Dowbiggin, Ian, Ian Dowbiggin, 2003, A merciful end: the euthanasia movement in modern America, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-515443-6, 10–13,weblink Both Ingersoll and Adler argued for voluntary euthanasia of adults suffering from terminal ailments. Dowbiggin argues that by breaking down prior moral objections to euthanasia and suicide, Ingersoll and Adler enabled others to stretch the definition of euthanasia.BOOK, Dowbiggin, Ian, Ian Dowbiggin, 2003, A merciful end: the euthanasia movement in modern America, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-515443-6, 13,weblink The first attempt to legalise euthanasia took place in the United States, when Henry Hunt introduced legislation into the General Assembly of Ohio in 1906.JOURNAL, Appel, Jacob, Jacob M. Appel, 2004, A Duty to Kill? A Duty to Die? Rethinking the Euthanasia Controversy of 1906, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 78, 3, 610–34, 10.1353/bhm.2004.0106, 15356372, {{rp|614}} Hunt did so at the behest of Anna S. Hall, a wealthy heiress who was a major figure in the euthanasia movement during the early 20th century in the United States. Hall had watched her mother die after an extended battle with liver cancer, and had dedicated herself to ensuring that others would not have to endure the same suffering. Towards this end she engaged in an extensive letter writing campaign, recruited Lurana Sheldon and Maud Ballington Booth, and organised a debate on euthanasia at the annual meeting of the American Humane Association in 1905 – described by Jacob Appel as the first significant public debate on the topic in the 20th century.{{rp|614–616}}Hunt's bill called for the administration of an anesthetic to bring about a patient's death, so long as the person is of lawful age and sound mind, and was suffering from a fatal injury, an irrevocable illness, or great physical pain. It also required that the case be heard by a physician, required informed consent in front of three witnesses, and required the attendance of three physicians who had to agree that the patient's recovery was impossible. A motion to reject the bill outright was voted down, but the bill failed to pass, 79 to 23.JOURNAL, Emanuel, Ezekiel, Ezekiel Emanuel, 1994, The history of euthanasia debates in the United States and Britain, Annals of Internal Medicine, 121, 796, 10, 10.7326/0003-4819-121-10-199411150-00010, 7944057,, {{rp|796}}{{rp|618–619}}Along with the Ohio euthanasia proposal, in 1906 Assemblyman Ross Gregory introduced a proposal to permit euthanasia to the Iowa legislature. However, the Iowa legislation was broader in scope than that offered in Ohio. It allowed for the death of any person of at least ten years of age who suffered from an ailment that would prove fatal and cause extreme pain, should they be of sound mind and express a desire to artificially hasten their death. In addition, it allowed for infants to be euthanised if they were sufficiently deformed, and permitted guardians to request euthanasia on behalf of their wards. The proposed legislation also imposed penalties on physicians who refused to perform euthanasia when requested: a 6–12 month prison term and a fine of between $200 and $1,000. The proposal proved to be controversial.{{rp|619–621}} It engendered considerable debate and failed to pass, having been withdrawn from consideration after being passed to the Committee on Public Health.{{rp|623}}After 1906 the euthanasia debate reduced in intensity, resurfacing periodically, but not returning to the same level of debate until the 1930s in the United Kingdom.{{rp|796}}Euthanasia opponent Ian Dowbiggin argues that the early membership of the Euthanasia Society of America (ESA) reflected how many perceived euthanasia at the time, often seeing it as a eugenics matter rather than an issue concerning individual rights. Dowbiggin argues that not every eugenist joined the ESA "solely for eugenic reasons", but he postulates that there were clear ideological connections between the eugenics and euthanasia movements.

1930s in Britain

The Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society was founded in 1935 by Charles Killick Millard (now called Dignity in Dying). The movement campaigned for the legalisation of euthanasia in Great Britain.In January 1936, King George V was given a fatal dose of morphine and cocaine to hasten his death. At the time he was suffering from cardio-respiratory failure, and the decision to end his life was made by his physician, Lord Dawson.JOURNAL, Ramsay, J H R, 28 May 2011, A king, a doctor, and a convenient death, British Medical Journal, 308, 1445,weblink 2 August 2011, 11644545, 10.1136/bmj.308.6941.1445, 1445, 2540387, live,weblink" title="">weblink 7 August 2011, dmy-all, Although this event was kept a secret for over 50 years, the death of George V coincided with proposed legislation in the House of Lords to legalise euthanasia.JOURNAL, Gurney, Edward, 1972, Is There a Right to Die – A Study of the Law of Euthanasia, Cumberland-Samford Law Review, 3, 237,

Nazi Euthanasia Program

File:Alkoven Schloss Hartheim 2005-08-18 3589.jpg|thumb|Hartheim Euthanasia CentreHartheim Euthanasia CentreA 24 July 1939 killing of a severely disabled infant in Nazi Germany was described in a BBC "Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline" as the first "state-sponsored euthanasia". Parties that consented to the killing included Hitler's office, the parents, and the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious and Congenitally Based Illnesses.Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline: 24 July 1939 {{webarchive|url= |date=5 August 2011 }} BBC Accessed 23 July 2011. Quotation: "The first state-sanctioned euthanasia is carried out, after Hitler receives a petition from a child's parents, asking for the life of their severely disabled infant to be ended. This happens after the case has been considered by Hitler's office and by the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious and Congenitally Based Illnesses, whose 'experts' have laid down the basis for the removal of disabled children to special 'paediatric clinics'. Here they can be either starved to death or given lethal injections. At least 5,200 infants will eventually be killed through this programme". The Telegraph noted that the killing of the disabled infant—whose name was Gerhard Kretschmar, born blind, with missing limbs, subject to convulsions, and reportedly "an idiot"— provided "the rationale for a secret Nazi decree that led to 'mercy killings' of almost 300,000 mentally and physically handicapped people".NEWSPAPER,weblink Named: the baby boy who was Nazis' first euthanasia victim, Irene Zoech,, 4 July 2017, live,weblink" title="">weblink 8 September 2017, dmy-all, 2003-10-11, While Kretchmar's killing received parental consent, most of the 5,000 to 8,000 children killed afterwards were forcibly taken from their parents.The "euthanasia campaign" of mass murder gathered momentum on 14 January 1940 when the "handicapped" were killed with gas vans and killing centres, eventually leading to the deaths of 70,000 adult Germans.Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline: 14 January 1940 {{webarchive|url= |date=5 August 2011 }} BBC Accessed 23 July 2011. Quotation: "The 'euthanasia campaign' gathers momentum in Germany, as six special killing centres and gas vans, under an organisation code-named T4, are used in the murder of 'handicapped' adults. Over 70,000 Germans will eventually be killed in this act of mass murder – it is the first time poison bas will be used for such a purpose". Professor Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors and a leading authority on the T4 program, contrasts this program with what he considers to be a genuine euthanasia. He explains that the Nazi version of "euthanasia" was based on the work of Adolf Jost, who published The Right to Death (Das Recht auf den Tod) in 1895. Lifton writes: Jost argued that control over the death of the individual must ultimately belong to the social organism, the state. This concept is in direct opposition to the Anglo-American concept of euthanasia, which emphasizes the individual's 'right to die' or 'right to death' or 'right to his or her own death,' as the ultimate human claim. In contrast, Jost was pointing to the state's right to kill. ... Ultimately the argument was biological: 'The rights to death [are] the key to the fitness of life.' The state must own death—must kill—in order to keep the social organism alive and healthy.Basic Books 1986, 46In modern terms, the use of "euthanasia" in the context of Action T4 is seen to be a (wikt:euphemism|euphemism) to disguise a program of genocide, in which people were killed on the grounds of "disabilities, religious beliefs, and discordant individual values".JOURNAL, Michalsen A, Reinhart K, "Euthanasia": A confusing term, abused under the Nazi regime and misused in present end-of-life debate, Intensive Care Med, 32, 9, 1304–10, September 2006, 16826394, 10.1007/s00134-006-0256-9, Compared to the discussions of euthanasia that emerged post-war, the Nazi program may have been worded in terms that appear similar to the modern use of "euthanasia", but there was no "mercy" and the patients were not necessarily terminally ill. Despite these differences, historian and euthanasia opponent Ian Dowbiggin writes that "the origins of Nazi euthanasia, like those of the American euthanasia movement, predate the Third Reich and were intertwined with the history of eugenics and Social Darwinism, and with efforts to discredit traditional morality and ethics."{{rp|65}}

1949 New York State Petition for Euthanasia and Catholic opposition

On 6 January 1949, the Euthanasia Society of America presented to the New York State Legislature a petition to legalize euthanasia, signed by 379 leading Protestant and Jewish ministers, the largest group of religious leaders ever to have taken this stance. A similar petition had been sent to the New York Legislature in 1947, signed by approximately 1,000 New York physicians. Roman Catholic religious leaders criticized the petition, saying that such a bill would "legalize a suicide-murder pact" and a "rationalization of the fifth commandment of God, 'Thou Shalt Not Kill.'"The Moncton Transcript. "Ministers Ask Mercy Killing." 6 January 1949. The Right Reverend Robert E. McCormick stated thatThe petition brought tensions between the American Euthanasia Society and the Catholic Church to a head that contributed to a climate of anti-Catholic sentiment generally, regarding issues such as birth control, eugenics, and population control. However, the petition did not result in any legal changes.

Euthanasia debate

Historically, the euthanasia debate has tended to focus on a number of key concerns. According to euthanasia opponent Ezekiel Emanuel, proponents of euthanasia have presented four main arguments: a) that people have a right to self-determination, and thus should be allowed to choose their own fate; b) assisting a subject to die might be a better choice than requiring that they continue to suffer; c) the distinction between passive euthanasia, which is often permitted, and active euthanasia, which is not substantive (or that the underlying principle–the doctrine of double effect–is unreasonable or unsound); and d) permitting euthanasia will not necessarily lead to unacceptable consequences. Pro-euthanasia activists often point to countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, and states like Oregon, where euthanasia has been legalized, to argue that it is mostly unproblematic.Similarly, Emanuel argues that there are four major arguments presented by opponents of euthanasia: a) not all deaths are painful; b) alternatives, such as cessation of active treatment, combined with the use of effective pain relief, are available; c) the distinction between active and passive euthanasia is morally significant; and d) legalising euthanasia will place society on a slippery slope,BOOK, Times Books, 978-0-8129-2790-0, New York, Forced Exit, Wesley J. Smith, Forced exit, 1997, 0812927907, dmy-all, 1006883M,weblink which will lead to unacceptable consequences.{{rp|797-8}} In fact, in Oregon, in 2013, pain wasn't one of the top five reasons people sought euthanasia. Top reasons were a loss of dignity, and a fear of burdening others.WEB,weblink The vulnerable will be the victims: Opposing view,, 4 July 2017, live,weblink 9 September 2017, dmy-all, In the United States in 2013, 47% nationwide supported doctor-assisted suicide. This included 32% of Latinos, 29% of African-Americans, and almost nobody with disabilities.A 2015 Populus poll in the United Kingdom found broad public support for assisted dying. 82% of people supported the introduction of assisted dying laws, including 86% of people with disabilities.WEB, Dignity in Dying Poll – Populous,weblink 4 August 2018, One concern is that euthanasia might undermine filial responsibility.WEB, Guest Editorial: The place of elderly persons and our responsibility for care
,weblink Samuel J Ujewe, 2 February 2019, In some countries, adult children of impoverished parents are legally entitled to support payments under filial responsibility laws. Thirty out of the fifty United StatesThe National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care as well as France,FRENCH LAW, Code Civil, 1 octobre 2018, 203–211,weblink Germany,GERMAN LAW, bgb, 1601, Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, BGB, Singapore, and Taiwan{{Citation |editor-last1=Sung|editor-first1=K.T. |editor-last2=Kim |editor-first2=B.J. |last=Chow |first=N. |title=Filial Piety in Asian Chinese Communities |encyclopedia=Respect for the Elderly: Implications for Human Service Providers |date=2009 |publisher=University Press of America |isbn=978-0-7618-4530-0 |url= |pp=319{{en dash}}24}} have filial responsibility laws.

Legal status

{{globalize|section|date=November 2011}}West's Encyclopedia of American Law states that "a 'mercy killing' or euthanasia is generally considered to be a criminal homicide"The says: "If a person kills another person in order to end the other person's pain or suffering, the killing is considered a homicide. It does not matter if the other person is about to die or is terminally ill just prior to being killed; the law generally views such a killing as criminal. Thus, a "mercy killing", or act of Euthanasia, is generally considered a criminal homicide ..." and is normally used as a synonym of homicide committed at a request made by the patient.The judicial sense of the term "homicide" includes any intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, even to relieve intractable suffering.Carmen Tomás Y Valiente, La regulación de la eutanasia en Holanda, Anuario de Derecho Penal y Ciencias Penales – Núm. L, Enero 1997JOURNAL, Variants of homicide: a review, Manoj Kumar Mohanty, Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine, August 2004, 11, 15363757, 4, 214–18, 10.1016/j.jcfm.2004.04.006, WEB,weblink Homicide legal definition of homicide,, 2017-07-06, live,weblink 13 May 2016, dmy-all, Not all homicide is unlawful.WEB,weblink the definition of homicide,, 4 July 2017, Two designations of homicide that carry no criminal punishment are justifiable and excusable homicide. In most countries this is not the status of euthanasia. The term "euthanasia" is usually confined to the active variety; the University of Washington website states that "euthanasia generally means that the physician would act directly, for instance by giving a lethal injection, to end the patient's life".WEB,weblink Physician-Assisted Suicide: Ethical Topic in Medicine,, 4 July 2017, live,weblink" title="">weblink 13 April 2017, dmy-all, Physician-assisted suicide is thus not classified as euthanasia by the US State of Oregon, where it is legal under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, and despite its name, it is not legally classified as suicide either.WEB,weblink Physician Assisted Suicide, Taylor, Bill, 7 July 2017,weblink" title="">weblink 4 December 2004, 7 July 2017, Unlike physician-assisted suicide, withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatments with patient consent (voluntary) is almost unanimously considered, at least in the United States, to be legal."Legal Aspects of Withholding and Withdrawing Life Support from Critically Ill Patients in the United States and Providing Palliative Care to Them", Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med., Volume 162, Number 6, December 2000. {{webarchive|url= |date=13 August 2003 }} The use of pain medication to relieve suffering, even if it hastens death, has been held as legal in several court decisions.Some governments around the world have legalized voluntary euthanasia but most commonly it is still considered to be criminal homicide. In the Netherlands and Belgium, where euthanasia has been legalized, it still remains homicide although it is not prosecuted and not punishable if the perpetrator (the doctor) meets certain legal conditions.JOURNAL, Oluyemisi Bamgbose, Euthanasia: Another Face of Murder, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 48, 1, 2004, 111–21, 10.1177/0306624X03256662, 14969121,, Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee : Netherlands. 27 August 2001Carmen Tomás Y Valiente, La regulación de la eutanasia en Holanda, Anuario de Derecho Penal y Ciencias Penales – Núm. L, Enero 1997JOURNAL, R Cohen-Almagor, Belgian euthanasia law: a critical analysis, J. Med. Ethics, 2009, 35, 436–39, 10.1136/jme.2008.026799, 19567694, 7,, In a historic judgment, the Supreme court of India legalized passive euthanasia. The apex court remarked in the judgment that the Constitution of India values liberty, dignity, autonomy, and privacy. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra delivered a unanimous judgment.NEWS,weblink Euthanasia and beyond: on the Supreme Court's verdict SC Constitution Bench holds passive euthanasia, living wills permissible, The Hindu, Karnataka, 2018-03-09, 2018-03-09, live,weblink" title="">weblink 5 June 2018, dmy-all,

Health professionals' sentiment

A 2010 survey in the United States of more than 10,000 physicians found that 16.3% of physicians would consider halting life-sustaining therapy because the family demanded it, even if they believed that it was premature. Approximately 54.5% would not, and the remaining 29.2% responded "it depends".WEB, Leslie Kane, MA,weblink Exclusive Ethics Survey Results: Doctors Struggle With Tougher-Than-Ever Dilemmas,, 2017-07-06, live,weblink" title="">weblink 14 August 2017, dmy-all, The study also found that 45.8% of physicians agreed that physician-assisted suicide should be allowed in some cases; 40.7% did not, and the remaining 13.5% felt it depended.In the United Kingdom, the assisted dying campaign group Dignity in Dying cites research in which 54% of General Practitioners support or are neutral towards a law change on assisted dying.WEB, Public opinion – Dignity in Dying,weblink 3 August 2018, Similarly, a 2017 poll reported in the British Medical Journal stated that 55% of doctors believe assisted dying, in defined circumstances, should be legalised in the UK.WEB, Assisted dying case 'stronger than ever' with majority of doctors now in support,weblink 3 August 2018, 2018-02-07, One concern among healthcare professionals is the possibility of being asked to participate in euthanasia in a situation where they personally believe it to be wrong. In a 1996 study of 852 nurses in adult ICUs, 19% admitted to participating in euthanasia. 30% of those who admitted to it also believed that euthanasia is unethical.JOURNAL
, Asch
, D. A.
, The role of critical care nurses in euthanasia and assisted suicide
, The New England Journal of Medicine
, Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center
, 334
, 21
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, 1374-9

Religious views


Broadly against

The Roman Catholic Church condemns euthanasia and assisted suicide as morally wrong. It states that, "intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator". Because of this, the practice is unacceptable within the Church.WEB,weblink How to Vote Catholic: Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide,, The Orthodox Church in America, along with other Eastern Orthodox Churches, also opposes euthanasia stating that it must be condemned as murder stating that, "Euthanasia is the deliberate cessation to end human life."WEB,weblink The Orthodox Christian view on Euthanasia,, live,weblink" title="">weblink 12 August 2017, dmy-all, Many non-Catholic churches in the United States take a stance against euthanasia. Among Protestant denominations, the Episcopal Church passed a resolution in 1991 opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide stating that it is "morally wrong and unacceptable to take a human life to relieve the suffering caused by incurable illnesses." Other Protestant churches which oppose euthanasia include:{{div col|colwidth=30em}} {{div col end}}

Partially in favor of

The Church of England accepts passive euthanasia under some circumstances, but is strongly against active euthanasia, and has led opposition against recent attempt to legalise it.Why the Church of England Supports the Current Law on Assisted Suicide. Dr Brendan McCarthy Archbishops’ Council Church House, London 2015 The United Church of Canada accepts passive euthanasia under some circumstances, but is in general against active euthanasia, with growing acceptance now that active euthanasia has been partly legalised in Canada.Submission to The Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying. Rev. Jordan Cantwell Moderator of The United Church of Canada. 2016.


Euthanasia is a complex issue in Islamic theology; however, in general it is considered contrary to Islamic law and holy texts. Among interpretations of the Koran and Hadith, the early termination of life is a crime, be it by suicide or helping one commit suicide. The various positions on the cessation of medical treatment are mixed and considered a different class of action than direct termination of life, especially if the patient is suffering. Suicide and euthanasia are both crimes in almost all Muslim majority countries.Islamic Perspectives, Euthanasia (Qatl al-raḥma). Abulfadl Mohsin Ebrahim. Journal of the Islamic Medical Association of North America 2007 Volume 4.


There is much debate on the topic of euthanasia in Judaic theology, ethics, and general opinion (especially in Israel and the United States). Passive euthanasia was declared legal by Israel's highest court under certain conditions and has reached some level of acceptance. Active euthanasia remains illegal, however the topic is actively under debate with no clear consensus through legal, ethical, theological and spiritual perspectives.Death and Euthanasia in Jewish Law: Essays and Responses. W Jacob and M. Zemer. Pitsburg and Tel Aviv. Rodef Shalom Press. 1995

See also

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Further reading

  • ENCYCLOPEDIA, Fry-Revere, Sigrid, Sigrid Fry-Revere, Ronald, Hamowy, Ronald Hamowy, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism,weblink 2008, SAGE Publications, Cato Institute, Thousand Oaks, CA, 10.4135/9781412965811.n98, 978-1412965804, 750831024, 2008009151, 156–58, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, Euthanasia,
  • BOOK, Exit International US Ltd, 978-0-9788788-0-1, Nitschke, Philip, Fiona Stewart, Philip Nitschke, Fiona Stewart, The Peaceful Pill Handbook, 2006,
  • BOOK, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-286070-5, Rachels, James, The end of life: Euthanasia and Morality, 1986,
  • BOOK, Torr, James D., Euthanasia: opposing viewpoints, 2000, Greenhaven Press, San Diego, 978-0-7377-0127-2,

External links

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