Euthanasia or mercy killing is mercifully ending a person’s life due to an incurable disease, intolerable suffering or due to undignified death. This is a practice that is considered legal when ordered by a patient. According to the ‘British House of Lords Select Committee’ on ‘Medical Ethics’, euthanasia is, “a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering”.
The origin of the word “euthanasia” is from Greek which means “good health” and originally referred to intentional mercy killing. At present this term is also applied to indicate lack of action to prevent death.
There are two types of patients involved in euthanasia:
Patients who are in a vegetative state yet unconscious about self or their surroundings. These patients are unable to perform higher brain function activities and kept alive with the support of artificial life supporters like respirators, heart-lung machine, and intravenous nutrition.
Other than this, patients with terminal illnesses are also involved in euthanasia. They may not be using any life support methods but may involve in euthanasia due to unbearable pain, psychological suffering and loss of dignity.
Also there are many types of euthanasia as:
Animal euthanasia: putting animals to death or letting them die using minimum pain or distress, due to incurable conditions or diseases.
Child euthanasia: for children who suffer from birth defects or for children who are critically ill and finally,
Human euthanasia which can be classified as,
Active euthanasia: Purposefully bringing on a man’s passing by performing an activity, for example, by giving a deadly infusion.
Passive euthanasia: Intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food and water.
Voluntary euthanasia: a person asks for his/her death for merciful reasons. According to some documents voluntary euthanasia is classified as a form of passive euthanasia.
Non-voluntary euthanasia: when a person whose life is ended cannot choose between life and death for themselves. The decision to perform non- voluntary euthanasia can be made according to the wish of the incapacitated individual, how he would have wanted or the decision is made by the guardian of the patient and finally it’s the doctor who can take the decision. And,
Involuntary euthanasia: ending of a person’s life without his or her consent, typically due to the perceived lack of worth of that life.
The background and history of euthanasia runs back to the period of 5th century B.C. to the period of ancient Greece and Rome. Helping or putting living individuals to death was allowed in some situations. In Sparta, a well known city in ancient Greece, newborns with birth defects were put to death. There are records that in the islands of Kea and Marseilles the poison Hemlock was used for instant death, when performing voluntary euthanasia which was an approved custom in several ancient societies. Even the great philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Seneca seems to support this concept though Hippocrates seems to oppose the idea.
The first visible use of the term “Euthanasia” was by Roman biographer and the historian of culture, ‘Suetonius’ and he used the term to describe the death of Emperor Augustus.”Dying quickly and without suffering in the arms of his wife, Livia, experienced the ‘euthanasia’ he had wished for.”
However, with the powerful and rapid development of Christianity in the West; euthanasia became morally and ethically abhorrent and was viewed as a violation of God’s gift of life. Today most branches of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam condemn active euthanasia, although some permit restricted forms of passive euthanasia.
During 17th – 18th centuries, suicides and assisted suicides were prohibited in the American colonies. But all the renaissance and reform writers in Europe protest against the church, challenging and questioning it’s authority as the church opposed the idea of euthanasia. But in the latter part of 18th century, with the protesting of American Evangelical Christians and due to various religious reinforcements the rejection of suicide and euthanasia remained firm. Following these traditional religious principles, Western laws have generally treated the act of assisting someone in dying as a form of punishable homicide (unlawful killing).
In current times, laws have turn out to be more common. The individuals who wish to legitimize euthanasia have contended; under standards of individual freedom, that, people have a lawful right to die as they pick. Yet, most nations (counting the United States), be that as it may, have not completely embraced this position and hold confinements on euthanasia.
However, this idea of euthanasia is still questionable as there are numerous moral issues concerning this subject. Additionally, the lawful procedure with respect to this field varies from nation to nation. Numerous states, for example, Oregon, license doctor helped suicide while as yet denouncing euthanasia as a type of murder.