Euthanasia: Practice of ending a life to relieve pain and suffering

In the Netherlands and Belgium, euthanasia is understood as "termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient". 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".

Anab Mehdi
Published on: 10 Jun 2019 4:01 AM GMT
Euthanasia: Practice of ending a life to relieve pain and suffering
X
  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • koo
  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • koo
  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • koo

Lucknow: Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering. 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".

In the Netherlands and Belgium, euthanasia is understood as "termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient". 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".

Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some countries.

Non-voluntary euthanasia (patient's consent unavailable) is illegal in all countries.

Involuntary euthanasia (without asking consent or against the patient's will) is also illegal in all countries and is usually considered murder.

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 in fact 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.

Classification of euthanasia:

Euthanasia may be classified into three types, according to whether a person gives informed consent: voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary.

Voluntary euthanasia

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. 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.

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. However, others see consent as essential.

Against

Christianity: The Roman Catholic Church strongly opposes and 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. 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."

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."

Islam: 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.

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. 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.

Judaism

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.

Anab Mehdi

Anab Mehdi

Next Story