The purpose of this essay is to inform readers clearly and coherently enoughof the terms and issues in the euthanasia debate that they can make sense of the euthanasia question. Descriptions are in relatively simple, non-technical language to facilitate learning.
The definition of euthanasia is simple: "Easy, painless death." But the concept of euthanasia proposed by adherents of the euthanasia movement is complex and has profound consequences for all. Because the subject involves the discipline of medicine (diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, medical ethics and so on) as well as the discipline of law, the general public will have difficulty understanding it ...view middle of the document...
When the intent is not to cause death but rather to reject extraordinary treatment, this results in the acceptance of death or continued life, whichever occurs, but it is not true euthanasia. The terms "passive," "indirect" or "negative euthanasia" should not be used since they play into the hands of euthanasia advocates by confusing legitimate actions with euthanasia, thereby desensitizing people to the fact that euthanasia is killing. More importantly, passive euthanasia is sometimes defined by others as the withholding of lifesaving treatment with the intention and result of causing the patient's death. This is the equivalent to active, direct euthanasia.
* Ordinary means: food, drink, rest, medicines, treatments and operations which offer a reasonable hope of benefit for the patient and which can be obtained and used without excessive expense, pain or other inconvenience.
Extraordinary means: those treatments, medicines and operations which are gravely burdensome to the patient, and which cannot be obtained or used without excessive expense, pain or other inconvenience or which, if used, would not offer a reasonable hope of benefit to the patient. A court recently has defined extraordinary means to include food and has ordered the removing of food from a patient for the purpose of killing the patient.
The Position of Medicine, Theology and Law on Euthanasia:
Active, direct or positive euthanasia is forbidden by law, and by most doctors and theologians. Under the common law it is murder or manslaughter in English-speaking countries, regardless of compassionate motives or consent of the victim. To withhold or withdraw ordinary means of sustaining life is equivalent to direct or active euthanasia. Thus this is direct killing and consequently should be forbidden by medicine, theology and law. Killing patients by withdrawing food and fluids has been advocated by some theologians, physicians and courts. To withhold or withdraw extraordinary means of sustaining life is not forbidden as such by medicine, theology or law.
When it is necessary for the comfort of the dying patient to give drugs to alleviate pain even though they may indirectly shorten his life or deprive...