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Ethical Backgrounds of Euthanasia


The controversial topic of euthanasia is enveloped with much of ethical debates. Euthanasia advocates state that every person has a complete right to decide whether to die in order to relieve the pain and suffering connected with a terminal illness. These views are opposed by those who state that euthanasia violates the sanctity of human life as well as it abuses the human rights.

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The Definition of Euthanasia

If closely examine the definition of the word euthanasia, translated from Greek it means ‘good death’. Considering its usage, euthanasia means the termination of human life in order to end suffering from an incurable disease. For this reason, euthanasia is also often called ‘the mercy killing’. There are two distinguished types of euthanasia: active and passive. Active euthanasia is connected with a purposeful act of ending one’s life while passive euthanasia refers to the deliberate withdrawal from medical treatment. However, the intentional withdrawal from medication is thought to be in the interest of the patient and is “an established part of medical practice is a relatively uncontroversial” (Ebrahimi, 2012, para. 4).

Acts of euthanasia can be divided into three categories: involuntary euthanasia, non-voluntary and voluntary euthanasia. Involuntary euthanasia is conducted when a sick patient does not request it, although it is done with the intention of relieving the suffering. Non-voluntary euthanasia is done when a patient is not capable while voluntary euthanasia is an intentional act of ending one’s life.

Assisted Euthanasia

The ethical background of assisted euthanasia is the freedom of one’s choice. According to the Final Exit Network, “this right by its nature implies that the ending of one’s life is one’s choice, including the timing and persons present, and should be free of any restrictions by the law, clergy, medical profession, and even friends and relatives no matter how well-intentioned” (The Final Exit Network: Our Principles and Mission, n.d., para. 2). The freedom of choice is actively used by assisted euthanasia advocates to underline the fact that a person has a complete right to terminate the life, and make this decision without any pressure from any outside factors.

When it comes to the autonomy theory concerning euthanasia, the autonomy of the patient that receives the lethal medication can also compromise the autonomy of the doctor. Another aspect pf autonomy is connected with the fact that some requests for euthanasia may mean something else, for example, psychological assistance (Fergusson, 2005, p. 2).

The ‘pro’ views on assisted euthanasia include the fact that the right for person’s autonomy will bring suffering and pain from the patient’s illness to the end, as well as the patient will leave the life in dignity knowing that it was a choice, pain of the family will be reduced, etc.


It is seen that euthanasia is indeed a controversial topic that is yet to be resolved. In the meantime, the ethical backgrounds of the parts debating the issue differ greatly, while opponents contest the sanctity of human life and equal euthanasia to murder, proponents argue that a terminally ill individual has a right to leave the life with dignity and end the sufferings. No matter what opinions are thrown on the table, we all should, first of all, have respect for those who consider euthanasia as a way to end the pain from the illness.

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Ebrahimi, N. (2012). The ethics of euthanasia. Web.

Fergusson, A. (2005). Euthanasia – Arguments from Autonomy. Web.

The Final Exit Network: Our Principles and Mission. (n.d.). Web.

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