Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide
Meanings of terms
Most people in North America experience at the end of their life what may be called a bad death. One study found that
"More often than not, patients died in pain, their desires concerning treatment
neglected, after spending 10 days or more in an intensive care unit." cited in Ref. 1
In contrast, the word euthanasia originated from the Greek language: "eu" means
"good" and "thanatos" means "death."
Like so many moral/ethical/religious terms, "euthanasia"
has multiple meanings:
One meaning given
to the word is
"the intentional termination of life by another at the explicit request of the
person who dies." 2 That is, the act must be initiated by the person who wishes to commit
suicide. The term "Physician Assisted Suicide" or "Assisted Suicide" is preferred because it is unambiguous. It implies that the individual does the requesting and a doctor or other indivicual meets their needs.
- Others define "euthanasia" as including both voluntary and involuntary
termination of life.
A poll conducted for LifeCanada, a Canadian pro-life group, by Environics used an extremely broad definition of euthanasia: "the use of lethal means to take the life of someone who is sick, depressed, elderly or disabled." This is a very broad definition that would cover the following situations:
Obviously, a unique definition was created for this public opinion poll in order to obtain data showing minimal support for "euthanasia." Surprisingly, they found that 61% of Canadian adults supported euthanasia using their definition. The subjects probably ignored the pollsters' definition and substituted their own.
- A terminally ill person in intractible pain who is not depressed and who repeatedly pleads for help in dying. This is commonly called physician assisted suicide, and
- An individual experiencing a treatable disease, and
- A roving squad of government thugs visiting every nursing home, selecting those residents who are not contributing to society, lining them up agansit a wall,
and machine gunning them to death, and
- A court sentencing an amputee or blind to be executed because he has difficulty walking or seeing, and
- A teenager who is depressed because his first love relationship failed and who wants help in committing suicide.
It is important to differentiate among a number of vaguely terms:
These procedures are performed on terminally ill, suffering persons so that natural
death will occur sooner. It is also done on persons in a Persistent Vegetative State -- individuals with massive brain damage who are in a coma from which they cannot possibly
Active Euthanasia: This involves causing the death of a person through a direct
action, in response to a request from that person. A well known example was the mercy
killing in 1998 of a patient with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) by Dr. Jack
Michigan physician. His patient was frightened that the advancing disease
would cause him to die a horrible death in the near future; he wanted a quick, painless
exit from life. Dr. Kevorkian injected controlled substances into the patient, thus causing his
death. Charged with 1st degree murder, the jury found him guilty of 2nd degree murder in 1999-MAR.
Physician Assisted Suicide: A physician supplies information and/or the
means of committing suicide (e.g. a prescription for lethal dose of sleeping pills, or
instructions on how to commit suicide with helium or carbon monoxide gas)
to a person, so that they can easily terminate their own life. The term "voluntary
passive euthanasia" (VPE) is becoming commonly used.
One writer 3 suggested the synonym "to kevork". This is derived from the name
of Dr. Kevorkian, who has promoted VPE and assisted at the deaths of hundreds of patients.
Originally he hooked his patients up to a machine that delivered measured doses of
medications, but only after the patient pushed a button to initiate the sequence. More
recently, he provided carbon monoxide and a face mask so that his patient could initiate
the flow of gas.
Involuntary Euthanasia: This term is used by some to describe the
killing of a person who has not explicitly requested aid in dying. This is
most often done to patients who are in a Persistent Vegetative
State and will probably never recover consciousness. It has been used to refer to government programs of genocide -- for example the program for exterminating developmentally challenged Germans by the Nazi Government during the late 1930's.
References used in the above essay:
John Horgan, "Right to Die," Scientific American,
Definition of Euthanasia by the Netherlands State Commission on Euthanasia.
Martin Levin, "Verdicts on Verdicts About Easeful Death", the Globe and
Mail, Toronto, 1996-AUG-10, Page D5.
Copyright © 1997 to 2010, by Ontario Consultants on
Last updated on 2010-SEP-04
Hyperlinks checked on 2010-SEP-04
Author: B.A. Robinson
This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only
After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.