A humanist discussion of euthanasia

General Article icon Type: General Article

What is euthanasia? Some definitions

  • Euthanasia originally meant ‘a gentle and easy death’, and is now used to mean ‘the act of inducing an easy death’, usually referring to acts which terminate or shorten life painlessly in order to end suffering where there is no prospect of recovery.
  • Voluntary euthanasia, sometimes called ‘assisted suicide’, is used in cases where the sufferer has made it clear that s/he wishes to die and has requested help to bring this about.
  • Involuntary euthanasia occurs when no consent or wish to die is expressed by the sufferer. To define this type further:
  • Non-voluntary euthanasia – where patients cannot express a wish to die (patients in comas, infants, cases of extreme senile dementia, those who cannot communicate for other reasons);
  • Involuntary euthanasia – where patients can express a wish to die but don’t (this equates to murder).

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