The controversy over euthanasia has recently become highly publicized. However, this issue is not a new debate. Society has voiced its opinions on the subject for hundreds of years. Euthanasia, which is Greek for "good death", refers to the act of ending another person’s life in order to end their suffering and pain.1 Two forms, passive and active euthanasia, categorize the actions taken to end the person’s life. Passive euthanasia involves removing a patient’s life support, withholding food and water, and discontinuing medical treatments. Active euthanasia includes any direct action taken to cause the death of the person, such as administrating a lethal drug.2 The debate over this issue stems from moral, ethical, and religious beliefs. All of these standpoints either side with the patient dying a natural death or from an accelerated death by euthanasia.
Throughout history, euthanasia has been used as a way to relieve a patient from an incurable illness or from living a life of unbearable pain. Many cultures, such as the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, did not oppose one’s decision to end his life rather than living with agonizing pain.3 During this time period, this choice was commonplace. A few ancient philosophers, who believed that the ending of a human life belonged to the gods only, met it with objection. When the Christian era began, the subject was rarely discussed or practiced because of the strong trust and faith held in God and his divine command. It was not until the eighteenth century Enlightenment period that new ideas favoring euthanasia were put forth by philosophers and other prominent figures such as Samuel Williams and David Hume.4 By the close of the 1800’s...
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- "Euthanasia: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions," International Anti-Euthanasia
Task Force, 2 March 1999, http://iaetf.org/index.htm (8 March 1999).
- Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide: All Sides of the Issues, 3 March 1999,
http://www.religioustolerance.org/euthanas.htm(4 March 1999).
- Green, James T. The Effects of Chemotherapy, 22 January 1999,
http://www.databaun.com/jamez/writing/chemo.html(2 March 1999).
- "Interview With Timothy Quill M.D.," Frontline/WGBH Educational Foundation, 1998,
- Larue, Gerald, Th.D. Playing God: Fifty Religions Views on Your Right to Die
Wakefield, NJ: Moyer Bell, 1996.
- Manning, Michael M.D. Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist
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