Essay: Ethical Theories on Euthanasia

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This essay discusses ethical theories on euthanasia. Euthanasia is – quite simply – the practice of ending a life for the sole and explicit purpose of ending the pain (and often indignity as well) that an individual is suffering from as the result of disease or injury. There are two distinct forms of voluntary euthanasia. Euthanasia is never – as is often argued by….

Euthanasia is – quite simply – the practice of ending a life for the sole and explicit purpose of ending the pain (and often indignity as well) that an individual is suffering from as the result of disease or injury. There are two distinct forms of voluntary euthanasia. Euthanasia is never – as is often argued by those who oppose its legalization – something that anyone (doctor, lawyer, or relative) can choose for someone else without former, written permission. Euthanasia is never like putting a old cat to sleep – a process in which the cat has no choice. Euthanasia laws and practices are designed to guard human dignity, not to compromise it. There is no such “involuntary euthanasia”: Such an act would be either manslaughter or murder. This point cannot be stressed too strongly: Euthanasia is always at the instigation of the person who is dying.

There are two different forms of voluntary euthanasia, passive and active. Passive euthanasia, which is also sometimes called negative euthanasia, is the process of withholding from a dying person certain kinds of treatments. For example, a person might request that he or she not be put on a ventilator but to be allowed to die if he or she cannot support respiration on his or her own.

Active euthanasia, the other form of voluntary euthanasia, involves the taking of deliberate, intentional actions that bring about the (somewhat) quicker death of a person who is dying from a disease or injury.

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