Euthanasia can be defined as the intentional or deliberate intervention of killing a person to relieve pain or agony or in case of a terminal illness. This is particularly done by physicians under the patient’s approval or consent and is considered humane euthanasia. Euthanasia could either be non-voluntary, which is illegal in every nation since it is conducted by physicians without the consent of the patient. Voluntary euthanasia is where an individual makes a request to be killed for his or her alleged benefits and is legal in some nations. Involuntary euthanasia is regarded as murder since the individual who is killed did not wish for it (Erdemir & Omur Pr. 16).
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Euthanasia is a common topic of discussion in bioethics and revolves around other issues such as assisted suicide and euthanasia by action or omission. Assisted suicide results when a person gives the individual some tactics and procedures to take away his or her own life. Euthanasia by action, on the other hand, is intentional taking away of life through undertaking a particular action that could include administering a lethal injection. Moreover, euthanasia by omission is intentional taking away of life by evading provision of basic care that may include food. Therefore, debate on euthanasia triggers various ethical, legal as well as moral issues that need to be addressed critically. In the U.S, for instance, euthanasia is illegal irrespective of the patient’s state. However, the practice could be legal or not with respect to a nation’s jurisdiction. In Belgium, Sweden, and Norway, euthanasia is legalized when the patient is under chronic pain in addition to terminal illnesses.
Historically, euthanasia was a common practice in ancient Greece as well as Rome. These civilizations decided that it was not necessary to safeguard the life of someone who had already lost the significance of it or took it to be burdensome. The Hippocrates once opposed the practice according to the Hippocratic Oath dating approximately 400 BC that states “I will not administer poison to anyone when asked to do so, nor suggest such a course” (Erdemir & Omur Pr. 4). On the same note, the practice was a common practice legalized in ancient Greek and Rome. With reference to the 1300s, the English jurisdiction deemed assisted suicide as a crime. Mercy killing was also opposed by the twelfth and fifth century Christians (Erdemir & Omur Pr. 5).
In 1828, the initial anti-euthanasia law was approved in New York where a heated debate regarding euthanasia and related abortions was apparent. By this time, euthanasia was either voluntary or involuntary and was being criticized by several medics and religious leaders. In 1870, the American Medical Association prohibited the administration of analgesics in euthanasia, and by the beginning of the twentieth century, mercy and assisted suicide had raised the public’s eyebrows. Therefore, by 1905, a bill that aimed to legalize euthanasia was opposed in Ohio (Emanuel pr. 1).
During the 1940s, the German physicians applied non-voluntary euthanasia to get rid of the ill and handicapped Germans in bunged gas chambers with the aim of minimizing the psychiatrically ill and handicapped individuals. This was prohibited in 1945 following the killing of close to three hundred thousand Germans. The gas chambers were also utilized by the NAZIs to exterminate their enemies, which constituted a form of criminal euthanasia (Emanuel pr. 10).
During the twentieth century, various agencies erupted to address the practice of euthanasia as 1935, Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation Society (VELS), which was advocating for its legalization in London, and the National Society for the Legalization of Euthanasia (NSLE) in 1938. The1980 saw the establishment of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, to advocate for voluntary mercy killing together with the U.S, Hemlock Society. Currently, various court cases have erupted as a result of euthanasia particularly physician-assisted suicide but the debate still stands.
Emanuel, Ezekiel. “History of Medicine: The History of Euthanasia Debates in the United States and Britain.” American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2011. Web.
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Erdemir, Aysegil and Omur Elcioglu. “A short history of Euthanasia Laws, and their Place in Turkish Law.” Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 11 (2001): 47-49. Web. 2011.