What is euthanasia?
Euthanasia comes from Greek, meaning ‘pleasant death’. It typically refers to the killing of a person for their own (or another) good, usually to end their suffering.
While virtually no-one in modern society would condone involuntary euthanasia, ‘mercy killings’ and ‘assisted suicides’, where the person killed consents to his or her fate, are the subject of heated international debate.
An important distinction in UK law exists between active euthanasia and passive euthanasia. Since the Bland ruling of 1993, ‘assisted suicides’, which involve ‘omissions’ that are principally the removal of life-saving care, are not illegal. However, actively taking action to end another’s life is illegal, even with consent.
Medically assisted suicide, where doctors help patients to die or actually kill them, is legal in a number of European countries, including Belgium and the Nethe