Inducing death for persons incurably diseased, mentally deficient or suffering intractable pain. Many include deformed newborns or the elderly.
Euthanasia is by some definitions humane in motive. Infanticide and geronticide have been long-standing practices in many cultures. Present-day moral and legal controversy in industrialized countries involves religious, scientific and professional opposition to euthanasia in hospitals and other social service institutions, to be used by the patient, the family, court orders or doctors decisions.
The issue of the "right to die" has philosophical, ethical and religious ramifications for every human being. In light of the advances in medicine and medical technology, however, it is of particular relevance to the aged. The medical profession can keep many people alive for longer than ever before. In most cases this is a blessing. But for some, prolonging physical life means prolonging physical or mental suffering.
20% of the nurses surveyed in American intensive care units reported deliberately hastening the death of a patient with the tacit consent of doctors or the patient's family. Experts state that the boundaries between palliative care and euthanasia were not clear enough in the survey questions to draw conclusions from this figure. By 1997 in San Francisco, over half of the doctors who treat AIDS patients had assisted a patient to die. In Washington, 25% of the doctors had received a request for help in killing themselves, and a quarter of these patients were given lethal drug prescriptions.
1. Euthanasia is a means of dignifying the death of those whose spirits are thought to be broken with suffering. In the case of those with extreme brain damage it permits death by eliminating what are seen as excessive life support systems.
2. The taking of life for merciful intents can be regarded as an act of charity and virtue.
3. When a patient, of mature judgement, who is able and conscious, asks that his life should be voluntarily ended, a doctor may, in good conscience, agree to give effect to this request if the patient is suffering constant and unbearable distress, resulting from an accident or a pathologically incurable infection which the doctor is unable to relieve.
4. Euthanasia will remain a last resort for those who have no other choice but endless suffering.
1. Euthanasia violates the human right to life.
2. Society, through religion, law and convention forbids the taking of all life except in cases of self or national defence.
3. Suffering is of profound human significance in itself, and is devalued by euthanasia.
4. Legally there is great pragmatic difficulty involved in determining guidelines for legislation more permissive of euthanasia. There is no way to envision which questions will need to be addressed at the end of a life, and so abstract ethical guidelines are useless.
5. Scientifically, painless methods of executing patients may not exist.
6. Historically, like any other human practice, euthanasia could be predicted to be abused if legally permitted. One abuse would be assisting a suicide of someone who would have changed their mind.
7. There is no sure way to predict that recovery from disease is absolutely impossible. When patients are given six months to live, they often live longer. Helping patients commit suicide could hasten the end of a life that might have found additional meaning, and time even for a miracle cure to be developed.
8. Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, in his seminal work Jewish Medical Ethics published in 1959, wrote: "It is clear, then, that even when the patient is already known to be on his deathbed and close to the end, any form of active euthanasia is strictly prohibited. In fact, it is condemned as plain murder."