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Related to Death with dignity: euthanasia, Dying With Dignity, Death with Dignity Act


(yo͞o'thənā`zhə), either painlessly putting to death or failing to prevent death from natural causes in cases of terminal illness or irreversible coma. The term comes from the Greek expression for "good death." Technological advances in medicine have made it possible to prolong life in patients with no hope of recovery, and the term negative euthanasia has arisen to classify the practice of withholding or withdrawing extraordinary means (e.g., intravenous feeding, respirators, and artificial kidney machines) to preserve life. Accordingly, the term positive euthanasia has come to refer to actions that actively cause death. The term passive euthanasia is used when certain common methods of treatment, such as antibiotics, drugs, or surgery, are withheld or a large quantity of needed but ultimately lethal pain medication is supplied. By the end of the 20th cent. passive euthanasia was said to be a common practice among U.S. hospitals and physicians. With regard to euthanasia in animals, there are strict rules and guidelines that ensure ethical euthanasia and disposal.

Much debate has arisen in the United States among physicians, religious leaders, lawyers, and the general public over the question of what constitutes actively causing death and what constitutes merely allowing death to occur naturally. The physician is faced with deciding whether measures used to keep patients alive are extraordinary in individual situations, e.g., whether a respirator or artificial kidney machine should be withdrawn from a terminally ill patient. The Supreme Court's decision in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health set a precedent for the removal of life-support equipment from terminal cases.

Popular movements have supported the legalization of the living willliving will,
legal document in which a person expresses in advance his or her wishes concerning the use of artificial life support, to be referred to should the person be unable to communicate such wishes at the end of life.
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, a statement written by a mentally alert patient that can be used to express a wish to forgo artificial means to sustain life during terminal illness. In 1977, California became the first to pass a state law to this effect, known as the death-with-dignity statute. The absence of a written living will complicated the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was in a persistent vegetative state from 1990 until 2005, when she died after having her feeding tube removed. In 2000 her husband, who was her legal guardian, won the right to remove it based upon what he stated were her orally expressed wishes, but legal challenges from her parents and Florida governor Jeb Bush and attempted government interventions through Florida and federal legislation delayed the tube's removal for five years. (See Schiavo caseSchiavo case,
the legal battles over the guardianship and rights of Theresa Maria Schindler Schiavo (1963–2005). Terri Schiavo was incapacitated and hospitalized in 1990, after she collapsed when her heart stopped beating due to a potassium imbalance, and her brain
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Societies advancing the cause of positive euthanasia were founded in 1935 in England and 1938 in the United States. End-of-Life Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society) is one controversial group that has pressed for right-to-die legislation on a national level. Positive euthanasia is for the most part illegal in the United States, but physicians may lawfully refuse to prolong life when there is extreme suffering.

In the early 1990s, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a Michigan physician, gained notoriety by assisting a number of people to commit suicide and became the object of a state law (1992) forbidding such activity. Kevorkian, who had been tried and acquitted repeatedly in the assisted deaths of seriously ill people, was convicted of murder in Michigan in 1999 for an assisted suicide that was shown on national television. Meanwhile, in 1997, the Supreme Court upheld state laws banning assisted suicide (in most U.S. states assisting in a suicide is a crime).

In Oregon in 1994, voters approved physician-assisted suicide for some patients who are terminally ill (the patients must administer the drugs); the law went into effect in 1997, following a protracted court challenge. In 2001 the Bush administration sought to undermine the law with a directive issued under the federal Controlled Substances Act, but Oregon sued to prohibit the enforcement of it, and the Supreme Court ruled (2006) that the federal government had exceeded its authority. Similar measures have since been approved, by voters, legislators, or the courts, in Washington state (2008), Montana (2009), Vermont (2013), and California (2015).

Since 1937 assisted suicide has not been illegal in Switzerland as long as the person who assists has no personal motive or gain. In 1993, the Netherlands decriminalized, under a set of restricted conditions, voluntary positive euthanasia (essentially, physician-assisted suicide) for the terminally ill, and in 2002 the country legalized physician-assisted suicide if voluntarily requested by seriously ill patients who face ongoing suffering. Belgium (2002) and Luxembourg (2008) also have legalized euthanasia for certain patients who have requested it, and Canada's supreme court has overturned (2015) laws against physician-assisted suicide.

See also bioethicsbioethics,
in philosophy, a branch of ethics concerned with issues surrounding health care and the biological sciences. These issues include the morality of abortion, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, and organ transplants (see transplantation, medical).
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See P. Singer, Rethinking Life and Death (1994); H. Hendin, Suicide in America (rev. ed. 1995). See also studies by J. Rachels (1986) and R. Wennberg (1989).


The act or practice of putting to death or allowing the death, in a relatively painless way, of persons or animals with incurable or painful disease.


the act of killing someone painlessly, esp to relieve suffering from an incurable illness
References in periodicals archive ?
Oregon's compassionate and worthy Death With Dignity Act allows a very specific category of people who are facing an often agonizing death from a terminal illness to legally obtain a prescription from a doctor for a lethal dose of drugs.
Dunn has become an outspoken advocate for death with dignity as a result.
If Oregon's Death With Dignity Law survives efforts to give it a lethal dose in Congress, Oregonians should remember which senator fought longest and hardest to defend it.
In truth, they've only just begun, but already the Death with Dignity law has prompted changes in health care practices and pain management that have made Oregon the nation's acknowledged leader in high-quality end-of-life care.
We seek to secure the right of mentally competent, terminally ill individuals to choose a death with dignity and without needless suffering.
If the option of death with dignity is unappealing to anyone for any reason, they can simply choose not to avail themselves of it.
Ashcroft threatened to criminally prosecute and revoke the licenses of Oregon physicians who prescribed drugs to patients as authorized by the Death with Dignity law.
During the 1970s, the general arrogance and paternalism of the medical profession compelled many of us to believe that the best way of ensuring death with dignity was to assert our legal "right" to die.
Kevorkian has been a selfless believer in death with dignity and has sacrificed his medical license and now his own freedom toward that cause.
30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Terminally ill 29-year-old Brittany Maynard has released a new video as part of her joint campaign with Compassion & Choices to expand access to death with dignity in California and other states nationwide.
But the Bush administration has already shown its cards in its relentless effort to overturn Oregon's Death with Dignity Act.
Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, passed in 1997, allows a doctor to prescribe life-ending drugs to a terminally ill patient who has been diagnosed as having no more than six months to live if the patient is a mentally competent adult who renews the request within 15 days.