Note: Varies by jurisdiction
Crime of passion
Felony murder rule
Lonely hearts killer
In English law
Note: Varies by jurisdiction
By victim or victims
Euthanasia (from Greek: εὐθανασία; "good death": εὖ, eu;
"well" or "good" – θάνατος, thanatos; "death") is the
practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and
There are different euthanasia laws in each country. 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 it under the
broader definition of "assisted suicide and termination of life on
Euthanasia is categorized in different ways, which include voluntary,
non-voluntary, or involuntary.
Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some
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. As of 2006, euthanasia
is the most active area of research in contemporary bioethics. In
some countries there is a divisive public controversy over the moral,
ethical, and legal issues of euthanasia. Passive euthanasia (known as
"pulling the plug") is legal under some circumstances in many
countries. Active euthanasia however is legal or de facto legal in
only a handful of countries (ex. Belgium, Canada, Switzerland) and is
limited to specific circumstances and the approval of councilors and
doctors or other specialists. In some countries such as Nigeria, Saudi
Arabia and Pakistan, support for active euthanasia is almost
2 Classification of euthanasia
2.1 Voluntary euthanasia
2.2 Non-voluntary euthanasia
2.3 Involuntary euthanasia
2.4 Passive and active euthanasia
3.1 Early modern period
3.2 Beginnings of the contemporary euthanasia debate
3.3 Early euthanasia movement in the United States
3.4 1930s in Britain
3.6 The 1949 New York State Petition for
Euthanasia and Catholic
5 Legal status
6 Physician sentiment
7 Religious views
7.1.1 Broadly against
7.1.2 Partially in favor of
8 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
Like other terms borrowed from history, "euthanasia" has had different
meanings depending on usage. The first apparent usage of the term
"euthanasia" belongs to the historian Suetonius, who described how the
Emperor Augustus, "dying quickly and without suffering in the arms of
his wife, Livia, experienced the 'euthanasia' he had wished for."
The word "euthanasia" was first used in a medical context by Francis
Bacon in the 17th century, to refer to an easy, painless, happy death,
during which it was a "physician's responsibility to alleviate the
'physical sufferings' of the body." Bacon referred to an "outward
euthanasia"—the term "outward" he used to distinguish from a
spiritual concept—the euthanasia "which regards the preparation of
In current usage, euthanasia has been defined as the "painless
inducement of a quick death". However, it is argued that this
approach fails to properly define euthanasia, as it leaves open a
number of possible actions which would meet the requirements of the
definition, but would not be seen as euthanasia. In particular, these
include situations where a person kills another, painlessly, but for
no reason beyond that of personal gain; or accidental deaths that are
quick and painless, but not intentional.
Another approach incorporates the notion of suffering into the
definition. The definition offered by the Oxford English
Dictionary incorporates suffering as a necessary condition, with "the
painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful
disease or in an irreversible coma", This approach is included in
Marvin Khol and Paul Kurtz's definition of it as "a mode or act of
inducing or permitting death painlessly as a relief from
suffering". Counterexamples can be given: such definitions may
encompass killing a person suffering from an incurable disease for
personal gain (such as to claim an inheritance), and commentators such
Tom Beauchamp and
Arnold Davidson have argued that doing so would
constitute "murder simpliciter" rather than euthanasia.
The third element incorporated into many definitions is that of
intentionality – the death must be intended, rather than being
accidental, and the intent of the action must be a "merciful
death". Michael Wreen argued that "the principal thing that
distinguishes euthanasia from intentional killing simpliciter is the
agent's motive: it must be a good motive insofar as the good of the
person killed is concerned." Similarly, Heather Draper speaks to
the importance of motive, arguing that "the motive forms a crucial
part of arguments for euthanasia, because it must be in the best
interests of the person on the receiving end." Definitions such as
that offered by the
House of Lords
House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics
take this path, where euthanasia is defined as "a deliberate
intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life,
to relieve intractable suffering." Beauchamp and Davidson also
highlight Baruch Brody's "an act of euthanasia is one in which one
person ... (A) kills another person (B) for the benefit of the
second person, who actually does benefit from being killed".
Draper argued that any definition of euthanasia must incorporate four
elements: an agent and a subject; an intention; a causal proximity,
such that the actions of the agent lead to the outcome; and an
outcome. Based on this, she offered a definition incorporating those
elements, stating that euthanasia "must be defined as death that
results from the intention of one person to kill another person, using
the most gentle and painless means possible, that is motivated solely
by the best interests of the person who dies." Prior to Draper,
Beauchamp and Davidson had also offered a definition that includes
these elements. Their definition specifically discounts fetuses to
distinguish between abortions and euthanasia:
"In summary, we have argued ... that the death of a human being,
A, is an instance of euthanasia if and only if (1) A's death is
intended by at least one other human being, B, where B is either the
cause of death or a causally relevant feature of the event resulting
in death (whether by action or by omission); (2) there is either
sufficient current evidence for B to believe that A is acutely
suffering or irreversibly comatose, or there is sufficient current
evidence related to A's present condition such that one or more known
causal laws supports B's belief that A will be in a condition of acute
suffering or irreversible comatoseness; (3) (a) B's primary reason for
intending A's death is cessation of A's (actual or predicted future)
suffering or irreversible comatoseness, where B does not intend A's
death for a different primary reason, though there may be other
relevant reasons, and (b) there is sufficient current evidence for
either A or B that causal means to A's death will not produce any more
suffering than would be produced for A if B were not to intervene; (4)
the causal means to the event of A's death are chosen by A or B to be
as painless as possible, unless either A or B has an overriding reason
for a more painful causal means, where the reason for choosing the
latter causal means does not conflict with the evidence in 3b; (5) A
is a nonfetal organism."
Wreen, in part responding to Beauchamp and Davidson, offered a
"Person A committed an act of euthanasia if and only if (1) A killed B
or let her die; (2) A intended to kill B; (3) the intention specified
in (2) was at least partial cause of the action specified in (1); (4)
the causal journey from the intention specified in (2) to the action
specified in (1) is more or less in accordance with A's plan of
action; (5) A's killing of B is a voluntary action; (6) the motive for
the action specified in (1), the motive standing behind the intention
specified in (2), is the good of the person killed."
Wreen also considered a seventh requirement: "(7) The good specified
in (6) is, or at least includes, the avoidance of evil", although as
Wreen noted in the paper, he was not convinced that the restriction
In discussing his definition, Wreen noted the difficulty of justifying
euthanasia when faced with the notion of the subject's "right to
life". In response, Wreen argued that euthanasia has to be voluntary,
and that "involuntary euthanasia is, as such, a great wrong".
Other commentators incorporate consent more directly into their
definitions. For example, in a discussion of euthanasia presented in
2003 by the European Association of Palliative Care (EPAC) Ethics Task
Force, the authors offered: "Medicalized killing of a person without
the person's consent, whether nonvoluntary (where the person in unable
to consent) or involuntary (against the person's will) is not
euthanasia: it is murder. Hence, euthanasia can be voluntary
only." Although the EPAC Ethics Task Force argued that both
non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia could not be included in the
definition of euthanasia, there is discussion in the literature about
excluding one but not the other.
Classification of euthanasia
Euthanasia may be classified into three types, according to whether a
person gives informed consent: voluntary, non-voluntary and
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.
See also: Right to die
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 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
Netherlands under the Groningen Protocol.
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.
Death of Socrates, by
Jacques-Louis David (1787), depicting
Socrates prepared to drink hemlock, following his conviction for
corrupting the youth of Athens
Euthanasia was practiced in
Ancient Greece and Rome: for example,
hemlock was employed as a means of hastening death on the island of
Kea, a technique also employed in Marseilles. Euthanasia, in the sense
of the deliberate hastening of a person's death, was supported by
Seneca the Elder in the ancient world, although
Hippocrates appears to have spoken against the practice, writing "I
will not prescribe a deadly drug to please someone, nor give advice
that may cause his death" (noting there is some debate in the
literature about whether or not this was intended to encompass
Early modern period
The term euthanasia in the earlier sense of supporting someone as they
died, was used for the first time by Francis Bacon. In his work,
Euthanasia medica, he chose this ancient Greek word and, in doing so,
distinguished between euthanasia interior, the preparation of the soul
for death, and euthanasia exterior, which was intended to make the end
of life easier and painless, in exceptional circumstances by
shortening life. That the ancient meaning of an easy death came to the
fore again in the early modern period can be seen from its definition
in the 18th century Zedlers Universallexikon:
Euthanasia: a very gentle and quiet death, which happens without
painful convulsions. The word comes from ευ, bene, well, and
θανατος, mors, death.
The concept of euthanasia in the sense of alleviating the process of
death goes back to the medical historian, Karl Friedrich Heinrich
Marx, who drew on Bacon's philosophical ideas. According to Marx, a
doctor had a moral duty to ease the suffering of death through
encouragement, support and mitigation using medication. Such an
"alleviation of death" reflected the contemporary zeitgeist, but was
brought into the medical canon of responsibility for the first time by
Marx. Marx also stressed the distinction between the theological care
of the soul of sick people from the physical care and medical
treatment by doctors.
Euthanasia in its modern sense has always been strongly opposed in the
Thomas Aquinas opposed both and argued that
the practice of euthanasia contradicted our natural human instincts of
survival, as did Francois Ranchin (1565–1641), a French
physician and professor of medicine, and Michael Boudewijns
(1601–1681), a physician and teacher.:208 Other voices
argued for euthanasia, such as
John Donne in 1624, and euthanasia
continued to be practised. In 1678, the publication of Caspar
Questel's De pulvinari morientibus non-subtrahend, ("On the pillow of
which the dying should not be deprived"), initiated debate on the
topic. Questel described various customs which were employed at the
time to hasten the death of the dying, (including the sudden removal
of a pillow, which was believed to accelerate death), and argued
against their use, as doing so was "against the laws of God and
Nature".:209–211 This view was shared by others who followed,
including Philipp Jakob Spener, Veit Riedlin and Johann Georg
Krünitz.:211 Despite opposition, euthanasia continued to be
practised, involving techniques such as bleeding, suffocation, and
removing people from their beds to be placed on the cold
Suicide and euthanasia became more accepted during the Age of
Thomas More wrote of euthanasia in Utopia, although
it is not clear if More was intending to endorse the
practice.:208–209 Other cultures have taken different
approaches: for example, in Japan suicide has not traditionally been
viewed as a sin, as it is used in cases of honor, and accordingly, the
perceptions of euthanasia are different from those in other parts of
Beginnings of the contemporary euthanasia debate
In the mid-1800s, the use of morphine to treat "the pains of death"
emerged, with John Warren recommending its use in 1848. A similar use
of chloroform was revealed by Joseph Bullar in 1866. However, in
neither case was it recommended that the use should be to hasten
death. In 1870 Samuel Williams, a schoolteacher, initiated the
contemporary euthanasia debate through a speech given at the
Birmingham Speculative Club in England, which was subsequently
published in a one-off publication entitled Essays of the Birmingham
Speculative Club, the collected works of a number of members of an
amateur philosophical society.:794 Williams' proposal was to use
chloroform to deliberately hasten the death of terminally ill
That in all cases of hopeless and painful illness, it should be the
recognized duty of the medical attendant, whenever so desired by the
patient, to administer chloroform or such other anaesthetic as may
by-and-bye supersede chloroform – so as to destroy consciousness at
once, and put the sufferer to a quick and painless death; all needful
precautions being adopted to prevent any possible abuse of such duty;
and means being taken to establish, beyond the possibility of doubt or
question, that the remedy was applied at the express wish of the
— Samuel Williams (1872),
Euthanasia Williams and Northgate:
The essay was favourably reviewed in The Saturday Review, but an
editorial against the essay appeared in The Spectator. From there
it proved to be influential, and other writers came out in support of
such views: Lionel Tollemache wrote in favour of euthanasia, as did
Annie Besant, the essayist and reformer who later became involved with
the National Secular Society, considering it a duty to society to "die
voluntarily and painlessly" when one reaches the point of becoming a
'burden'. Popular Science analyzed the issue in May 1873,
assessing both sides of the argument. Kemp notes that at the time,
medical doctors did not participate in the discussion; it was
"essentially a philosophical enterprise ... tied inextricably to
a number of objections to the Christian doctrine of the sanctity of
Early euthanasia movement in the United States
Euthanasia in the United States
Felix Adler, circa 1913, the first prominent American to argue for
permitting suicide in cases of chronic illness
The rise of the euthanasia movement in the United States coincided
with the so-called Gilded Age, a time of social and technological
change that encompassed an "individualistic conservatism that praised
laissez-faire economics, scientific method, and rationalism", along
with major depressions, industrialisation and conflict between
corporations and labour unions.:794 It was also the period in
which the modern hospital system was developed, which has been seen as
a factor in the emergence of the euthanasia debate.
Robert Ingersoll argued for euthanasia, stating in 1894 that where
someone is suffering from a terminal illness, such as terminal cancer,
they should have a right to end their pain through suicide. Felix
Adler offered a similar approach, although, unlike Ingersoll, Adler
did not reject religion. In fact, he argued from an Ethical Culture
framework. In 1891, Alder argued that those suffering from
overwhelming pain should have the right to commit suicide, and,
furthermore, that it should be permissible for a doctor to assist –
thus making Adler the first "prominent American" to argue for suicide
in cases where people were suffering from chronic illness. Both
Ingersoll and Adler argued for voluntary euthanasia of adults
suffering from terminal ailments. Dowbiggin argues that by
breaking down prior moral objections to euthanasia and suicide,
Ingersoll and Adler enabled others to stretch the definition of
The first attempt to legalise euthanasia took place in the United
States, when Henry Hunt introduced legislation into the General
Ohio in 1906.:614 Hunt did so at the behest of Anna S.
Hall, a wealthy heiress who was a major figure in the euthanasia
movement during the early 20th century in the United States. Hall had
watched her mother die after an extended battle with liver cancer, and
had dedicated herself to ensuring that others would not have to endure
the same suffering. Towards this end she engaged in an extensive
letter writing campaign, recruited Lurana Sheldon and Maud Ballington
Booth, and organised a debate on euthanasia at the annual meeting of
American Humane Association
American Humane Association in 1905 – described by Jacob Appel
as the first significant public debate on the topic in the 20th
Hunt's bill called for the administration of an anesthetic to bring
about a patient's death, so long as the person is of lawful age and
sound mind, and was suffering from a fatal injury, an irrevocable
illness, or great physical pain. It also required that the case be
heard by a physician, required informed consent in front of three
witnesses, and required the attendance of three physicians who had to
agree that the patient's recovery was impossible. A motion to reject
the bill outright was voted down, but the bill failed to pass, 79 to
Along with the
Ohio euthanasia proposal, in 1906 Assemblyman Ross
Gregory introduced a proposal to permit euthanasia to the Iowa
legislature. However, the Iowa legislation was broader in scope than
that offered in Ohio. It allowed for the death of any person of at
least ten years of age who suffered from an ailment that would prove
fatal and cause extreme pain, should they be of sound mind and express
a desire to artificially hasten their death. In addition, it allowed
for infants to be euthanised if they were sufficiently deformed, and
permitted guardians to request euthanasia on behalf of their wards.
The proposed legislation also imposed penalties on physicians who
refused to perform euthanasia when requested: a 6–12 month prison
term and a fine of between $200 and $1,000. The proposal proved to be
controversial.:619–621 It engendered considerable debate and
failed to pass, having been withdrawn from consideration after being
passed to the Committee on Public Health.:623
After 1906 the euthanasia debate reduced in intensity, resurfacing
periodically, but not returning to the same level of debate until the
1930s in the United Kingdom.:796
Ian Dowbiggin argues that the early membership of
Euthanasia Society of America (ESA) reflected how many perceived
euthanasia at the time, often seeing it as a eugenics matter rather
than an issue concerning individual rights. Dowbiggin argues that
not every eugenist joined the ESA "solely for eugenic reasons", but he
postulates that there were clear ideological connections between the
eugenics and euthanasia movements.
1930s in Britain
Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society was founded in 1935 by
Charles Killick Millard (now called Dignity in Dying). The movement
campaigned for the legalisation of euthanasia in Great Britain.
In January 1936, King George V was given a fatal dose of morphine and
cocaine to hasten his death. At the time he was suffering from
cardio-respiratory failure, and the decision to end his life was made
by his physician, Lord Dawson. Although this event was kept a
secret for over 50 years, the death of George V coincided with
proposed legislation in the
House of Lords
House of Lords to legalise euthanasia.
Main article: Action T4
Euthanasia Centre, where over 18,000 people were killed.
A 24 July 1939 killing of a severely disabled infant in Nazi Germany
was described in a
Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline" as the
first "state-sponsored euthanasia". Parties that consented to the
killing included Hitler's office, the parents, and the Reich Committee
for the Scientific Registration of Serious and Congenitally Based
Illnesses. The Telegraph noted that the killing of the disabled
infant—whose name was Gerhard Kretschmar, born blind, with missing
limbs, subject to convulsions, and reportedly "an idiot"— provided
"the rationale for a secret Nazi decree that led to 'mercy killings'
of almost 300,000 mentally and physically handicapped people".
While Kretchmar's killing received parental consent, most of the 5,000
to 8,000 children killed afterwards were forcibly taken from their
The "euthanasia campaign" of mass murder gathered momentum on 14
January 1940 when the "handicapped" were killed with gas vans and
killing centres, eventually leading to the deaths of 70,000 adult
Germans. Professor Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors
and a leading authority on the T4 program, contrasts this program with
what he considers to be a genuine euthanasia. He explains that the
Nazi version of "euthanasia" was based on the work of Adolf Jost, who
published The Right to
Death (Das Recht auf den Tod) in 1895. Lifton
Jost argued that control over the death of the individual must
ultimately belong to the social organism, the state. This concept is
in direct opposition to the Anglo-American concept of euthanasia,
which emphasizes the individual's 'right to die' or 'right to death'
or 'right to his or her own death,' as the ultimate human claim. In
contrast, Jost was pointing to the state's right to kill. ...
Ultimately the argument was biological: 'The rights to death [are] the
key to the fitness of life.' The state must own death—must kill—in
order to keep the social organism alive and healthy.
In modern terms, the use of "euthanasia" in the context of Action T4
is seen to be a euphemism to disguise a program of genocide, in which
people were killed on the grounds of "disabilities, religious beliefs,
and discordant individual values". Compared to the discussions of
euthanasia that emerged post-war, the Nazi program may have been
worded in terms that appear similar to the modern use of "euthanasia",
but there was no "mercy" and the patients were not necessarily
terminally ill. Despite these differences, historian and
Ian Dowbiggin writes that "the origins of Nazi
euthanasia, like those of the American euthanasia movement, predate
the Third Reich and were intertwined with the history of eugenics and
Social Darwinism, and with efforts to discredit traditional morality
The 1949 New York State Petition for
Euthanasia and Catholic
On 6 January 1949, the
Euthanasia Society of America presented to the
New York State Legislature
New York State Legislature a petition to legalize euthanasia, signed
by 379 leading Protestant and Jewish ministers, the largest group of
religious leaders ever to have taken this stance. A similar petition
had been sent to the New York Legislature in 1947, signed by
approximately 1,000 New York physicians. Catholic religious leaders
criticized the petition, saying that such a bill would "legalize a
suicide-murder pact" and a "rationalization of the fifth commandment
of God, 'Thou Shalt Not Kill.'" The Right Reverend Robert E.
McCormick stated that
"The ultimate object of the
Euthanasia Society is based on the
Totalitarian principle that the state is supreme and that the
individual does not have the right to live if his continuance in life
is a burden or hindrance to the state. The Nazis followed this
principle and compulsory
Euthanasia was practiced as a part of their
program during the recent war. We American citizens of New York State
must ask ourselves this question: 'Are we going to finish Hitler's
The petition brought tensions between the American
and the Catholic Church to a head that contributed to a climate of
anti-Catholic sentiment generally, regarding issues such as birth
control, eugenics, and population control. However, the petition did
not result in any legal changes.
Historically, the euthanasia debate has tended to focus on a number of
key concerns. According to euthanasia opponent Ezekiel Emanuel,
proponents of euthanasia have presented four main arguments: a) that
people have a right to self-determination, and thus should be allowed
to choose their own fate; b) assisting a subject to die might be a
better choice than requiring that they continue to suffer; c) the
distinction between passive euthanasia, which is often permitted, and
active euthanasia, which is not substantive (or that the underlying
principle–the doctrine of double effect–is unreasonable or
unsound); and d) permitting euthanasia will not necessarily lead to
unacceptable consequences. Pro-euthanasia activists often point to
countries like the
Netherlands and Belgium, and states like Oregon,
where euthanasia has been legalized, to argue that it is mostly
Similarly, Emanuel argues that there are four major arguments
presented by opponents of euthanasia: a) not all deaths are painful;
b) alternatives, such as cessation of active treatment, combined with
the use of effective pain relief, are available; c) the distinction
between active and passive euthanasia is morally significant; and d)
legalising euthanasia will place society on a slippery slope,
which will lead to unacceptable consequences.:797-8 In fact, in
Oregon, in 2013, pain wasn't one of the top five reasons people sought
euthanasia. Top reasons were a loss of dignity, and a fear of
In the United States in 2013, 47% nationwide supported doctor-assisted
suicide. This included 32% of Latinos, 29% of African-Americans, and
almost nobody with disabilities.
The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a
worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article, discuss
the issue on the talk page, or create a new article, as appropriate.
(November 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Main article: Legality of euthanasia
West's Encyclopedia of American Law states that "a 'mercy killing' or
euthanasia is generally considered to be a criminal homicide" and
is normally used as a synonym of homicide committed at a request made
by the patient.
The judicial sense of the term "homicide" includes any intervention
undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, even to
relieve intractable suffering. Not all homicide is
unlawful. Two designations of homicide that carry no criminal
punishment are justifiable and excusable homicide. In most
countries this is not the status of euthanasia. The term "euthanasia"
is usually confined to the active variety; the University of
Washington website states that "euthanasia generally means that the
physician would act directly, for instance by giving a lethal
injection, to end the patient's life". Physician-assisted suicide
is thus not classified as euthanasia by the US State of Oregon, where
it is legal under the
Death with Dignity Act, and despite its
name, it is not legally classified as suicide either. Unlike
physician-assisted suicide, withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining
treatments with patient consent (voluntary) is almost unanimously
considered, at least in the United States, to be legal. The use of
pain medication to relieve suffering, even if it hastens death, has
been held as legal in several court decisions.
Some governments around the world have legalized voluntary euthanasia
but most commonly it is still considered to be criminal homicide. In
Netherlands and Belgium, where euthanasia has been legalized, it
still remains homicide although it is not prosecuted and not
punishable if the perpetrator (the doctor) meets certain legal
In a historic judgment, the Supreme court of India legalized passive
euthanasia. The apex court remarked in the judgment that the
Constitution of India values liberty, dignity, autonomy, and privacy.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra delivered a unanimous
A 2010 survey in the United States of more than 10,000 physicians
found that 16.3% of physicians would consider halting life-sustaining
therapy because the family demanded it, even if they believed that it
was premature. Approximately 54.5% would not, and the remaining 29.2%
responded "it depends". The study also found that 45.8% of
physicians agreed that physician-assisted suicide should be allowed in
some cases; 40.7% did not, and the remaining 13.5% felt it
In the United Kingdom, the pro-assisted dying group Dignity in Dying
cite conflicting research on attitudes by doctors to assisted dying:
with a 2009 Palliative Medicine-published survey showing 64% support
(to 34% oppose) for assisted dying in cases where a patient has an
incurable and painful disease, while 49% of doctors in a study
published in BMC
Medical Ethics oppose changing the law on assisted
dying to 39% in favour.
Main article: Religious views on euthanasia
Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church strongly opposes and condemns euthanasia and
assisted suicide as morally wrong. The Catholic Church 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 is "morally wrong and unacceptable to take a human life
to relieve the suffering caused by incurable illnesses."  Other
Protestant churches which oppose euthanasia include:
Assemblies of God
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Church of the Nazarene
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Presbyterian Church in America
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
Reformed Church in America
Seventh-day Adventist Church
Southern Baptist Convention
United Methodist Church,
Partially in favor of
Church of England
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..
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.
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.
Child euthanasia in Nazi Germany
Euthanasia in Australia
Euthanasia in the Netherlands
Coup de grâce
Euthanasia and the slippery slope
Principle of double effect
Terri Schiavo case
Aruna Shanbaug case
^ "Euthanasia". Worldrtd.net. Retrieved 2017-07-06. Philosopher Helga
Kuhse: "'Euthanasia' is a compound of two Greek words – eu and
thanatos meaning, literally, 'a good death'. Today, 'euthanasia' is
generally understood to mean the bringing about of a good death –
'mercy killing,' where one person, A, ends the life of another person,
B, for the sake of B."
Euthanasia (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)".
Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
^ a b c d Harris, NM. (October 2001). "The euthanasia debate". J R
Army Med Corps. 147 (3): 367–70. doi:10.1136/jramc-147-03-22.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide BBC. Last reviewed June 2011.
Accessed 25 July 2011. Archived from the original Archived 19 July
2011 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Carr, Claudia (2014). Unlocking Medical Law and Ethics (2nd ed.).
Routledge. p. 374. ISBN 9781317743514. Retrieved 2 February
^ Voluntary and involuntary euthanasia
BBC Accessed 12 February 2012.
Archived from the original Archived 5 September 2011 at the Wayback
^ Borry P, Schotsmans P, Dierickx K (April 2006). "Empirical research
in bioethical journals. A quantitative analysis". J Med Ethics. 32
(4): 240–45. doi:10.1136/jme.2004.011478. PMC 2565792 .
^ Philippe Letellier, chapter: History and Definition of a Word, in
Euthanasia: Ethical and Human Aspects By Council of Europe
^ Francis Bacon: The Major Works by Francis Bacon, edited by Brian
Vickers, p. 630.
^ Kohl, Marvin (1974). The Morality of Killing. New York: Humanities
Press. p. 94. , quoted in Beauchamp & Davidson (1979), p
294. A similar definition is offered by Blackburn (1994) with "the
action of causing the quick and painless death of a person, or not
acting to prevent it when prevention was within the agent's powers."
^ a b c d e Beauchamp, Tom L.; Davidson, Arnold I. (1979). "The
Definition of Euthanasia". Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 4 (3):
294–312. doi:10.1093/jmp/4.3.294. PMID 501249.
^ a b Draper, Heather (1998). "Euthanasia". In Chadwick, Ruth.
Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. 2. Academic Press.
^ "euthanasia". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. April
2010. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
^ Kohl, Marvin; Kurtz, Paul (1975). "A Plea for Beneficient
Euthanasia". In Kohl, Marvin. Beneficient Euthanasia. Buffalo, New
York: Prometheus Books. p. 94. , quoted in Beauchamp &
Davidson (1979), p 295.
^ Wreen, Michael (1988). "The Definition of Euthanasia". Philosophy
and Phenomenological Research. 48 (4): 637–53 .
doi:10.2307/2108012. JSTOR 2108012.
^ Brody, Baruch (1975). "Voluntary
Euthanasia and the Law". In Kohl,
Marvin. Beneficient Euthanasia. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books.
p. 94. , quoted in Beauchamp & Davidson (1979), p 295.
^ Draper, Heather (1998). "Euthanasia". In Chadwick, Ruth.
Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics. 2. Academic Press. p. 176.
^ Beauchamp, Tom L.; Davidson, Arnold I. (1979). "The Definition of
Euthanasia". Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 4 (3): 303.
doi:10.1093/jmp/4.3.294. PMID 501249.
^ Beauchamp, Tom L.; Davidson, Arnold I. (1979). "The Definition of
Euthanasia". Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. 4 (3): 304.
doi:10.1093/jmp/4.3.294. PMID 501249.
^ Wreen, Michael (1988). "The Definition of Euthanasia". Philosophy
and Phenomenological Research. 48 (4): 637–40. doi:10.2307/2108012.
^ a b c Wreen, Michael (1988). "The Definition of Euthanasia".
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 48 (4): 637–53 .
doi:10.2307/2108012. JSTOR 2108012.
^ Materstvedt, Lars Johan; Clark, David; Ellershaw, John; Førde,
Reidun; Boeck Gravgaard, Anne-Marie; Müller-Busch, Christof; Porta i
Sales, Josep; Rapin, Charles-Henri (2003). "
physician-assisted suicide: a view from an EAPC Ethics Task Force".
Palliative Medicine. 17 (2): 97–101.
^ Perrett RW (October 1996). "Buddhism, euthanasia and the sanctity of
life". J Med Ethics. 22 (5): 309–13. doi:10.1136/jme.22.5.309.
PMC 1377066 . PMID 8910785.
^ LaFollette, Hugh (2002). Ethics in practice: an anthology. Oxford:
Blackwell. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-631-22834-9.
^ Wreen, Michael (1988). "The Definition of Euthanasia". Philosophy
and Phenomenological Research. 48 (4): 637–53. doi:10.2307/2108012.
^ Rachels J (January 1975). "Active and passive euthanasia". N. Engl.
J. Med. 292 (2): 78–80. doi:10.1056/NEJM197501092920206.
^ Mystakidou, Kyriaki; Parpa, Efi; Tsilika, Eleni; Katsouda, Emanuela;
Vlahos, Lambros (2005). "The Evolution of
Euthanasia and Its
Perceptions in Greek Culture and Civilization". Perspectives in
Biology and Medicine. 48 (1): 97–98.
^ a b c d e f Stolberg, Michael (2007). "Active
Pre-ModernSociety, 1500–1800: Learned Debates and Popular
Practices". Social History of Medicine. 20 (2): 206–07.
^ Gesundheit, Benjamin; Steinberg, Avraham; Glick, Shimon; Or, Reuven;
Jotkovitz, Alan (2006). "Euthanasia: An Overview and the Jewish
Perspective". Cancer Investigation. 24 (6): 622.
^ Zedlers Universallexikon, Vol. 08, p. 1150, published 1732–54.
^ Markwart Michler (1990), "Marx, Karl, Mediziner", Neue Deutsche
Biographie (NDB) (in German), 16, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot,
pp. 327–328 ; (full text online)
^ Helge Dvorak: Biographisches Lexikon der Deutschen Burschenschaft.
Vol. I, Sub-vol. 4, Heidelberg, 2000, pp. 40–41.
^ "Historical Timeline: History of
Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted
Euthanasia – ProCon.org. Last updated on: 23 July 2013.
Retrieved 4 May 2014.
^ a b Gesundheit, Benjamin; Steinberg, Avraham; Glick, Shimon; Or,
Reuven; Jotkovitz, Alan (2006). "Euthanasia: An Overview and the
Jewish Perspective". Cancer Investigation. 24 (6): 623.
^ Mannes, Marya (1975). "
Euthanasia vs. the Right to Life". Baylor Law
Review. 27: 69.
^ Otani, Izumi (2010). ""Good Manner of Dying" as a Normative Concept:
"Autocide", "Granny Dumping" and Discussions on Euthanasia/
Dignity in Japan". International Journal of Japanese Society. 19 (1):
^ a b c d e f Emanuel, Ezekiel (1994). "The history of euthanasia
debates in the United States and Britain" (PDF). Annals of Internal
Medicine. 121 (10): 796.
^ a b c Nick Kemp (7 September 2002). Merciful Release. Manchester
University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-6124-0. 0719061245
Ian Dowbiggin (March 2007). A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life,
Death, God, and Medicine. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 51,
62–64. ISBN 978-0-7425-3111-6. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
^ Corporation, Bonnier (May 1873). "Popular Science".
^ Pappas, Demetra (1996). "Recent historical perspectives regarding
medical euthanasia and physician assisted suicide". British Medical
Bulletin. 52 (2): 386–87. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.bmb.a011554.
^ a b c d e f Dowbiggin, Ian (2003). A merciful end: the euthanasia
movement in modern America. Oxford University Press. pp. 10–13.
^ Dowbiggin, Ian (2003). A merciful end: the euthanasia movement in
modern America. Oxford University Press. p. 13.
^ a b c d e Appel, Jacob (2004). "A Duty to Kill? A Duty to Die?
Euthanasia Controversy of 1906". Bulletin of the
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^ Ramsay, J H R (28 May 2011). "A king, a doctor, and a convenient
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^ Gurney, Edward (1972). "Is There a Right to Die – A Study of the
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^ a b c
Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline: 24 July 1939
23 July 2011. Quotation: "The first state-sanctioned euthanasia is
carried out, after Hitler receives a petition from a child's parents,
asking for the life of their severely disabled infant to be ended.
This happens after the case has been considered by Hitler's office and
by the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious and
Congenitally Based Illnesses, whose 'experts' have laid down the basis
for the removal of disabled children to special 'paediatric clinics'.
Here they can be either starved to death or given lethal injections.
At least 5,200 infants will eventually be killed through this
^ a b Irene Zoech. "Named: the baby boy who was Nazis' first
euthanasia victim". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline: 14 January 1940
BBC Accessed 23
July 2011. Quotation: "The 'euthanasia campaign' gathers momentum in
Germany, as six special killing centres and gas vans, under an
organisation code-named T4, are used in the murder of 'handicapped'
adults. Over 70,000 Germans will eventually be killed in this act of
mass murder – it is the first time poison bas will be used for such
^ Basic Books 1986, 46
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confusing term, abused under the Nazi regime and misused in present
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doi:10.1007/s00134-006-0256-9. PMID 16826394.
^ a b The Moncton Transcript. "Ministers Ask Mercy Killing." 6 January
^ Wesley J. Smith (1997). Forced Exit (Forced exit ed.). New York:
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^ a b "The vulnerable will be the victims: Opposing view".
Usatoday.com. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
^ The legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com says: "If a person kills
another person in order to end the other person's pain or suffering,
the killing is considered a homicide. It does not matter if the other
person is about to die or is terminally ill just prior to being
killed; the law generally views such a killing as criminal. Thus, a
"mercy killing", or act of Euthanasia, is generally considered a
criminal homicide ..."
^ a b Carmen Tomás Y Valiente, La regulación de la eutanasia en
Holanda, Anuario de Derecho Penal y Ciencias Penales – Núm. L,
^ Manoj Kumar Mohanty (August 2004). "Variants of homicide: a review".
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doi:10.1016/j.jcfm.2004.04.006. PMID 15363757.
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^ a b "the definition of homicide". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 4 July
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^ Taylor, Bill (7 July 2017). "Physician Assisted Suicide" (PDF).
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^ "Legal Aspects of Withholding and Withdrawing Life Support from
Critically Ill Patients in the United States and Providing Palliative
Care to Them", Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med., Volume 162, Number 6,
^ Oluyemisi Bamgbose (2004). "Euthanasia: Another Face of Murder".
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology.
48 (1): 111–21. doi:10.1177/0306624X03256662.
^ Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee :
Netherlands. 27 August 2001
^ Carmen Tomás Y Valiente, La regulación de la eutanasia en Holanda,
Anuario de Derecho Penal y Ciencias Penales – Núm. L, Enero 1997
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analysis". J. Med. Ethics. 35 (7): 436–39.
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Euthanasia and beyond: on the Supreme Court's verdict SC
Constitution Bench holds passive euthanasia, living wills
permissible". The Hindu. Karnataka. 2018-03-09. Retrieved
^ a b Leslie Kane, MA. "Exclusive Ethics Survey Results: Doctors
Struggle With Tougher-Than-Ever Dilemmas". Medscape.com. Retrieved
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^ "How to Vote Catholic:
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide".
^ a b c "The Orthodox Christian view on Euthanasia".
^ a b "
Assemblies of God
Assemblies of God (USA) Official Web Site - Medical:
Euthanasia, and Extraordinary Support to Sustain Life". ag.org.
^ "21. Selected Church Policies and Guidelines". www.lds.org.
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^ "LCMS Views - Frequently Asked Questions - The Lutheran
Church—Missouri Synod". www.lcms.org.
^ "General Synod Statements: Physician-Assisted
Suicide - Reformed
Church in America". www.rca.org.
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and Assisted Suicide". www.salvationarmy.org.
Southern Baptist Convention
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^ Why the
Church of England
Church of England Supports the Current Law on Assisted
Suicide. Dr Brendan McCarthy Archbishops’ Council Church House,
^ Submission to The
Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted
Dying. Rev. Jordan Cantwell Moderator of The United Church of Canada.
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