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.
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.
Euthanasia violates the human right to life.