What is Euthanasia

The euthanasia is the action or omission of an action that causes the death of a person with an incurable disease to avoid physical and psychological suffering. There is also talk of euthanasia applied to animals.

This word comes from the Greek εὖ (eu‘good and θάνατος (‘death’).

Sometimes ‘euthanasia’ is spoken of in other terms such as ‘assisted suicide’ although in strict terms, assisted suicide is the death of a person caused by himself voluntarily and actively but using the means or the necessary information about the procedures deliberately provided by another person.

Postures for and against euthanasia

The issue of euthanasia in people is an issue that raises conflicting positions. Each country has its own legislation regarding this matter. People usually speak of the right to die with dignity and to avoid further suffering as the main arguments to defend euthanasia. On the other hand, the right to life is often discussed in positions against euthanasia as well as religious reasons.

Types of euthanasia

Taking into account the diversity of opinions on this subject, a generic classification of the different types of euthanasia could be made:

Direct or indirect euthanasia

Direct euthanasia is intended to cause death. Within this section, euthanasia can be active (if lethal substances are administered that cause death, i.e. through an action) or passivealso called adysthanasia (if life-sustaining treatments are not given or are not given, i.e. by default). Indirect euthanasia has the objective of alleviating the suffering of a patient. In this sense, for example, certain palliative treatments that are used as analgesics also indirectly cause the shortening of life.

Voluntary or involuntary euthanasia

Voluntary euthanasia occurs when a person with the use of their abilities asks or has asked in the past to be helped to die. Non-voluntary euthanasia can occur, on the one hand, when a person is not in possession of the physical or mental capacity to request euthanasia but this will was previously expressed. On the other hand, it can also occur when a person does not have these abilities but the procedure is performed in the same way.

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Eugenic or pious euthanasia

Eugenic euthanasia or eugenics is one whose purpose is the death of a person for social and/or racial reasons. It is about causing death in people due to eminently social causes, as, for example, happened in Sparta with newborns with some type of deficiency. When it occurs in fetuses, it is usually referred to as ‘abortion’. Pious euthanasia aims to avoid pain and suffering to a sick person.

See also: death.