euthanasia

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Related to active euthanasia: passive euthanasia

euthanasia

(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alive are extraordinary in individual situations, e.g., whether a respirator or artificial kidney machine should be withdrawn from a terminally ill patient.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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.

Bibliography

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).

euthanasia

[‚yü·thə′nā·zhə]
(medicine)
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.

euthanasia

the act of killing someone painlessly, esp to relieve suffering from an incurable illness
References in periodicals archive ?
What has been said of voluntary active euthanasia applies as well, I believe, to assisted suicide.
Both those who favor legalizing active euthanasia and those who oppose it should make it clear to their physicians and hospitals that the defeat of Proposition 161 in California may be the last warning before some state starts the ball rolling beyond education and into the law.
Both of the recent defenses of physician-assisted suicide raise the fear that legalizing active euthanasia would, in contrast to legalizing physician-assisted suicide, create too great a danger of abuse.
Manic aggressive medicine has erred in seeking to eliminate mortalily, proponents of active euthanasia, in underestimating our moral resources for living with it.
Brock, "Voluntary Active Euthanasia," Hastings Center Report March--April: 11.
Every moment of life is equal in value to every other moment; therefore, artificial truncation of those moments through active euthanasia is forbidden (Kinzbrunner, 2004).
Those who argue in support of voluntary active euthanasia opine that, in certain cases, relief from agony and pains (rather than preserving life) should be the primary concern of health-care providers (Beauchamp, 2008).
18,19) The concentration of health problems into very old age, ie over 85, could strengthen the demand for either specialist palliative care services or active euthanasia in this age group.
The chief concern is whether PSU can be distinguished from active euthanasia.
It should be noted however that there are different types of euthanasia, active euthanasia and passive euthanasia.
From his defense of active euthanasia to his development of a non-religious ethics grounded in evolutionary biology, Rachels, like Peter Singer, a kindred spirit (see, e.
Lastly, once a distinction between passive and active euthanasia is made, we should be skeptical of religious "traditionalists" who claim that they are absolutely opposed to euthanasia.