The Age-old Practice of Euthanasia

Elaboration, 2018

13 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents


Forms of Euthanasia
Active Euthanasia
Passive Euthanasia
Voluntary Euthanasia
Involuntary Euthanasia
Indirect Euthanasia
Assisted Euthanasia
Euthanasia Ethics
Arguments for Euthanasia
Arguments against Euthanasia

Euthanasia and Religion

Legislation on Euthanasia




Euthanasia is commonly known as mercy killing or assisted suicide because the involved procedures are designed in such a way that, the patient’s dignity is not degraded or compromised. The Greeks termed it as euthanatos which simply meant easy death (Keown, 2002). It involves termination of an individual’s life through painless means such as injecting the patient with a lethal drug or withdrawing supply of essential requirements like food and oxygen (Frost, n.d). It is executed at an individual’s consent especially when someone is suffering from an incurable health condition. In addition, the decision to terminate a patient’s life can also be made by the patient’s relatives, the court of law or medical practitioners. However, it is worth noting that the decision by the relatives, the court or the medics is only reached at if the patient is critically ill, such that he or she cannot think or reason. Some individuals who are not terminally ill can sign consent for their lives to be terminated through euthanasia because of ethical reasons especially with matters related to human dignity, but this happens on rare occasions (Keown, 2002). However, euthanasia has aroused unprecedented debate in the society because it involves several considerations; the most significant one’s being practical, religious and ethical issues. Moreover, this practice seems to be somehow challenging to the health professionals, since it is not in alignment with the medical ethics nor legal framework. Euthanasia is illegal in the United Kingdom: thus, it is considered illegal. Therefore, approaches towards euthanasia require caution, since it can lead to imprisonment (Nicholson, 2000). For instance, voluntary euthanasia is considered as a crime in the United Kingdom, which is punishable by law. Any individual who deliberately executes euthanasia is subjected to serve a jail term. Therefore, this research paper will give an overview of euthanasia. Euthanasia has evoked unprecedented controversy in the society.

Forms of Euthanasia

Euthanasia can be performed in various ways, some of which are considered unethical while others are relatively acceptable, although unprecedented controversy looms over the ethics of euthanasia. The forms of euthanasia are categorized according to the nature of the approaches undertaken during the termination of an individual’s life. In general, euthanasia can be categorized as either active or passive. This approach is based on the procedure that is adopted in executing one’s life. That is, the practitioner’s decision on whether to inject the patient with a lethal dose or by withdrawing treatment and letting one die of the disease condition. On the other hand, euthanasia can be categorized according to the patient’s decision on his or her death. In this case, euthanasia can be termed as voluntary or involuntary. Moreover, euthanasia can be categorized with respect to approach and wish of either the patient or the medic. In such a scenario, euthanasia is classified as indirect euthanasia or assisted euthanasia.

Active Euthanasia

Ordinarily, active euthanasia involves deliberate killing of the patient through performing a suicidal act that causes the death of the patient (Keown, 2002). For instance, medics may give the patient an overdose of the conventional drugs such as pain-killers, which will ultimately result into a sudden death of the patient. This is a deliberate act because the concerned medics are aware of the outcomes, even though they do not actively kill the patient. This form of euthanasia is morally unacceptable because medics do it out of will, and the drug doses may not reach the intended lethal level (Keown, 2002). In the event that the doses do not cause death to the patient, critical ethical issues can emerge leading to unprecedented ethical problems.

Passive Euthanasia

In passive euthanasia, medics let the patient die on their own by withdrawing essential requirements such treatment, oxygen and food. Withdrawal of treatment to a patient involves termination of treatment approaches such as switching off life-supporting machines (Keown, 2002). As a result, the patient dies of the disease condition because he or she cannot survive without supportive facilities. Withdrawal of treatment may include turning off gas and food supply tubes or termination of medication that are required by the patient to live.

On the other hand, a patient can be killed through withholding of treatment that could have saved that patient’s life (Busè, 2008). For instance, patients whose treatment requires surgery of a vital body organ such as the heart or brain can be allowed to die by failing to carry out surgery to extend his or her life. Ordinarily, surgery is believed to extend the lives of patients because it restores the defective body organ or system.

From a moral perspective, passive euthanasia is considered to be more ethical than active euthanasia. However, some people express total objection to it; since it imparts ethical consequences to the relatives of the patient. This is so because; it evokes immense emotions especially when the process does not cause death over a short period.

Voluntary Euthanasia

In voluntary euthanasia, the ailing individuals request to be killed. It also happens if the person who seeks to die prefers to maintain his or her dignity. An old person may request for euthanasia, even if he or she is not terminally ill. In other words, voluntary euthanasia is performed, incase in individual requests for his or her life to be terminated because of ethical reasons, and not necessarily as a result of illness.

Involuntary Euthanasia

Involuntary euthanasia occurs in circumstances in which the person, who is to be killed wishes to live, but other parties, rather than the concerned individual consider it necessary to terminate his or her life because of various reasons. In most cases, involuntary euthanasia is performed on unconscious individuals or in people who are mentally unable to choose between death and life. For instance, individuals with low levels of intelligence such as young babies are unable to comprehend the essence of euthanasia. As a result, euthanasia decision is made on their behalf especially by relatives or medics. However, it is worth noting that such decisions must be in accordance to the law. Ordinarily, involuntary euthanasia is done on infants who are born with fatal biological defects that may not allow the child to survive. In most cases, involuntary euthanasia is performed by soldiers in the battle field when their fellow soldiers sustain fatal injuries that cause severe pain.

Indirect Euthanasia

Indirect euthanasia appears to be relatively different from the other forms of euthanasia because it is performed in a sophisticated approach. In indirect euthanasia, the patient is put on treatment that involves administration of pain-relieving drugs to the patient, which later causes fatal side-effects, leading to the patient’s death. The drugs’ side effects hasten the death of the patient, even though he or she does not experience the pain caused by the disease condition. This form of euthanasia is known as the doctrine of double effect. It has been found that indirect euthanasia is morally acceptable; since the principal intention is to relieve pain, but not to kill the patient. It is relatively non-intentional, even though it is termed as euthanasia in the medical ethics.

Assisted Euthanasia

Assisted euthanasia is commonly confused with the factual meaning of euthanasia. Contrary to the perception of many people, assisted euthanasia simply implies that the person who wishes to die is provided with suicidal means. For instance, lethal drugs can be made available to the patient who requires assistance to kill themselves, upon request, but the second party does not have any contribution in decision-making or the suicide mission. The patient takes away his or her life through taking the drugs that have been placed within their reach (Foley Hendin, 2002).

Euthanasia Ethics

Euthanasia ethics seem to have evoked unprecedented controversy in the society. Currently, there are different opinions regarding the ethics of euthanasia and this situation has been worsened by the legal framework of many countries. Some countries do not have efficient legislations that define the precepts of euthanasia, while others have prohibition laws such as the United Kingdom.

It appears that the current debate over euthanasia is seemingly becoming ambiguous because different groups of individuals view it from diverse perspectives. Some individuals consider it to be necessary to assist a terminally ill patient, who is suffering from an incurable health condition to die (Nicholson, 2000). However, it appears somehow difficult to single out the moral differences between euthanasia and normal death because; whether the patient is assisted to die or allowed to get to the eventual normal death, the ultimate result is death. The second moral dilemma that has made euthanasia appear to confuse is the circumstances under which it is suppose to be executed, since there is a total absence of a consensus justification of euthanasia.

Ordinarily, human beings associate life and death with extremely sensitive ethical values and meaning. They hold the notion that life and death are critical aspects of humanity; therefore, they are solely responsible for making decisions regarding these aspects. In contrast, euthanasia seems to be independently related to the fundamental tenets of humanity, leading to the unprecedented debate in the society.

In general, arguments over euthanasia are primarily based on practical, religious and ethical issues. The key factors that compel an individual to seek for euthanasia are pain and psychological factors such as depression. Pain caused by disease conditions becomes relatively unbearable at some disease levels. For instance, patients who experience intense pain and suffering because of some health conditions such as breathlessness, incontinence and paralysis consider an early death than prolonged agony caused by pain and discomfort. Recent survey reports that were conducted in the U.S showed that most patients who request for euthanasia face severe physical conditions, which seem to degrade the quality of life (Nicholson, 2000). Further survey results showed that a third of patients in the Netherlands seek for euthanasia because of severe pain that is caused by their illnesses.


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The Age-old Practice of Euthanasia
Egerton University
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Patrick Kimuyu (Author), 2018, The Age-old Practice of Euthanasia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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