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  • 1. A gentle and easy death.
  • 2. The means of bringing about a gentle and easy death. Also transf. and fig.
  • 3. In recent use: The action of inducing a gentle and easy death. Used esp. with reference to a proposal that the law should sanction the putting painlessly to death of those suffering from incurable and extremely painful diseases.

For lessons on the topic of Euthanasia, follow this link.


Euthanasia (from the Greek ευθανασία meaning "good death": ευ-, eu- (well or good) + θάνατος, thanatos (death)) refers to the practice of ending a life in a painless manner. Many different forms of euthanasia can be distinguished, including animal euthanasia and human euthanasia, and within the latter, voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide have been the focus of great controversy in recent years. As of 2009, some forms of active euthanasia are legal in Belgium,[1] Luxembourg,[2] The Netherlands,[1] Switzerland,[1] Thailand,[3] and the U.S. states of Oregon[4] and Washington.[5]

Assisted suicide

Assisted suicide is a form of euthanasia where the patient actively takes the last step in their death. The term "assisted suicide" is contrasted with "active euthanasia" when the difference between providing the means and actively administering lethal medicine is considered important[6]. For example, Swiss law on assisted suicide allows assisted suicide, while all forms of active euthanasia (like lethal injection) remain prohibited. Some jurisdictions declare that a person dying as a result of physician assisted suicide does not commit suicide. This ensures that terminally ill people choosing assisted suicide options do not have reduced insurance claims compared to people dying in "natural" way. For example, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act defines that "... participation under the Act is not suicide, so should not affect insurance benefits by that definition."[7]

Other terminology

A coup de grâce is a "death blow" given to end the misery of a dying enemy or friend, or that precipitates the final destruction of an entity such as a ship or business. Voluntary refusal of food and fluids (VRFF) or Patient Refusal of Nutrition and Hydration (PRNH) is bordering on euthanasia. Some authors classify it as a form of passive euthanasia,[8] while others treat it separately because it is treated differently from legal point of view and often perceived as a more ethical option[9]. VRFF is sometimes suggested as a legal alternative to euthanasia in jurisdictions disallowing euthanasia.[citation needed] Animal euthanasia is to kill an animal without pain or distress."[10] Techniques to accomplish this include cervical dislocation (breaking the spine) and exsanguination (fatal blood loss).[10]


Hippocrates mentions euthanasia in the Hippocratic Oath, which was written between 400 and 300 B.C. The original Oath states: “To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death.”[11] Despite this, the ancient Greeks and Romans generally did not believe that life needed to be preserved at any cost and were, in consequence, tolerant of suicide in cases where no relief could be offered to the dying or, in the case of the Stoics and Epicureans, where a person no longer cared for his life.[12][13]

English Common Law from the 1300s until the middle of the last century made suicide a criminal act in England and Wales. Assisting others to kill themselves remains illegal in that jurisdiction. However, in the 1500s, Thomas More, in describing a utopian community, envisaged such a community as one that would facilitate the death of those whose lives had become burdensome as a result of "torturing and lingering pain".[12][14]

Modern history

Since the 19th Century, euthanasia has sparked intermittent debates and activism in North America and Europe. According to medical historian Ezekiel Emanuel, it was the availability of anesthesia that ushered in the modern era of euthanasia. In 1828, the first known anti-euthanasia law in the United States was passed in the state of New York, with many other localities and states following suit over a period of several years.[15] After the Civil War, voluntary euthanasia was promoted by advocates, including some doctors.[16] Support peaked around the turn of the century in the US and then grew again in the 1930s.

In an article in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Brown University historian Jacob M. Appel documented extensive political debate over legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide in both Iowa and Ohio in 1906.[17] Appel indicates social activist Anna S. Hall was the driving force behind this movement.[17] Leading public figures, including Clarence Darrow and Jack London, advocated for the legalization of euthanasia.[18]

Euthanasia societies[which?] were formed in England in 1935 and in the USA in 1938 to promote euthanasia. Although euthanasia legislation did not pass in the USA or England, in 1937, doctor-assisted euthanasia was declared legal in Switzerland as long as the doctor ending the life had nothing to gain.[11][19] During this same era, US courts tackled cases involving critically ill people who requested physician assistance in dying as well as “mercy killings”, such as by parents of their severely disabled children.


The new function of pleasure lures--this introduces a new factor into racial survival; ancient man exposed undesired children to die; moderns refuse to bear them.[1]



  • Battin, Margaret P., Rhodes, Rosamond, and Silvers, Anita, eds. Physician assisted suicide: expanding the debate. NY: Routledge, 1998.
  • Emanuel, Ezekiel J. 2004. "The history of euthanasia debates in the United States and Britain" in Death and dying: a reader, edited by T. A. # Shannon. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Dennis J. Horan, David Mall, eds. (1977). Death, dying, and euthanasia. Frederick, MD: University Publications of America. ISBN 0-89093-139-9.
  • Kopelman, Loretta M., deVille, Kenneth A., eds. Physician-assisted suicide: What are the issues? Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001. (E.g., Engelhardt on secular bioethics)
  • Magnusson, Roger S. “The sanctity of life and the right to die: social and jurisprudential aspects of the euthanasia debate in Australia and the United States” in Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal (6:1), January 1997.
  • Palmer, “Dr. Adams’ Trial for Murder” in The Criminal Law Review. (Reporting on R. v. Adams with Devlin J. at 375f.) 365-377, 1957.
  • Paterson, Craig, "A History of Ideas Concerning Suicide, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia" (2005). Available at SSRN:
  • PCSEPMBBR, United States. President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research. 1983. Deciding to forego life-sustaining treatment: a report on the ethical, medical, and legal issues in treatment decisions. Washington, DC: President's Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research: For sale by the Supt. of Docs. U.S. G.P.O.
  • Robertson, John. 1977. Involuntary euthanasia of defective newborns: a legal analysis. In Death, dying, and euthanasia, edited by D. J. Horan and D. Mall. Washington: University Publications of America. Original edition, Stanford Law Review 27 (1975) 213-269.
  • Stone, T. Howard, and Winslade, William J. “Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in the United States” in Journal of Legal Medicine (16:481-507), December 1995.


  • Giorgio Agamben; translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen (1998). Homo sacer: sovereign power and bare life. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-3218-3.
  • Raphael Cohen-Almagor (2001). The right to die with dignity: an argument in ethics, medicine, and law. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-2986-7.
  • Appel, Jacob. 2007. A Suicide Right for the Mentally Ill? A Swiss Case Opens a New Debate. Hastings Center Report, Vol. 37, No. 3.
  • Dworkin, R. M. Life's Dominion: An Argument About Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom. New York: Knopf, 1993.
  • Fletcher, Joseph F. 1954. Morals and medicine; the moral problems of: the patient's right to know the truth, contraception, artificial insemination, sterilization, euthanasia. Princeton, N.J.K.: Princeton University Press.
  • Derek Humphry, Ann Wickett (1986). The right to die: understanding euthanasia. San Francisco: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-015578-7.
  • Kamisar, Yale. 1977. Some non-religious views against proposed 'mercy-killing' legislation. In Death, dying, and euthanasia, edited by D. J. * Horan and D. Mall. Washington: University Publications of America. Original edition, Minnesota Law Review 42:6 (May 1958).
  • Kelly, Gerald. “The duty of using artificial means of preserving life” in Theological Studies (11:203-220), 1950.
  • Panicola, Michael. 2004. Catholic teaching on prolonging life: setting the record straight. In Death and dying: a reader, edited by T. A. * Shannon. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Paterson, Craig. Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: An Natural Law Ethics Approach. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2008.
  • Rachels, James. The End of Life: Euthanasia and Morality. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
  • Sacred congregation for the doctrine of the faith. 1980. The declaration on euthanasia. Vatican City: The Vatican.
  • Tassano, Fabian. The Power of Life or Death: Medical Coercion and the Euthanasia Debate. Foreword by Thomas Szasz, MD. London: Duckworth, 1995. Oxford: Oxford Forum, 1999.


  1. Euthanasia and the law
  2. Luxembourg says 'yes' to euthanasia
  3. พระราชบัญญัติสุขภาพแห่งชาติ พ.ศ. 2550. (2550, 19 มีนาคม). ราชกิจจานุเบกษา, (เล่ม 124, ตอนที่ 16 ก).
  4. Oregon’s Death with Dignity law and Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Factual Disputes
  5. See Washington Initiative 1000, which passed on 4 November 2008.
  6. Assisted suicide bordering on active euthanasia, International Journal of Legal Medicine, Volume 117, Number 2 / April, 2003
  7. "FAQs about Death with Dignity". Retrieved 2009-03-10.
  8. Patient Refusal of Nutrition and Hydration: Walking the Ever-Finer Line
  9. Harvath TA. Voluntary refusal of food and fluids: attitudes of Oregon hospice nurses and social workers. Int J Palliat Nurs. 2004 May;10(5):236-41
  10. "Glossary." CCAC Programs. 2005. Canadian Council on Animal Care. 13 July 2007 (
  11. History of Euthanasia
  12. An overview of voluntary euthanasia
  13. See Senicide
  14. See Humphry and Wickett (1986:8-10) on More, Montaigne, Donne, and Bacon.
  15. History of Euthanasia (PowerPoint presentation), "The earliest American statute explicitly to outlaw assisting suicide was enacted in New York in 1828, Act of December 10, 1828, ch. 20, §4, 1828 N. Y. Laws 19 (codified at 2 N. Y. Rev. Stat. pt. 4, ch. 1, tit. 2, art. 1, §7, p. 661 (1829)), and many of the new States and Territories followed New York's example. Marzen 73-74." Retrieved June 16, 2007.
  16. Humphry and Wickett 1986:11-12, Emanuel 2004.
  17. Appel, Jacob M. "A Duty to Kill? A Duty to Die." Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 78.3 (October 2004): 610-634.
  18. Dowbiggin, Ian. A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America. OUP. ISBN 0195154436.
  19. euthanasia. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-07
  20. Friedlander, Henry (1997). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. UNC Press. pp. xi. ISBN 0807846759.