What is Euthanasia (definition and types)

The euthanasia It 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 Greek εὖ (eu‘good and θάνατος (‘death’).

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

Positions for and against euthanasia

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

Types of euthanasia

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

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, that is, through an action) or passivealso called adythanasia (if treatments that keep the person alive are not administered or are stopped being administered, that is, by omission). Indirect euthanasia has the objective of alleviating the suffering of a patient. In this sense, for example, certain palliative treatments that are used as an analgesic also indirectly cause the shortening of life.

Voluntary or involuntary euthanasia

Voluntary euthanasia occurs when a person with the use of their capabilities 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 capabilities to request euthanasia but this will was previously expressed. On the other hand, it can also occur when a person does not have these capabilities but the procedure is performed in the same way.

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 for 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’. The purpose of pious euthanasia is to prevent pain and suffering for a sick person.

See also: death.

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