Euthanasia (from the Greek eu = good + 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.
Euthanasia may be conducted with consent (voluntary euthanasia) or without consent (involuntary euthanasia). Involuntary euthanasia is conducted where an individual makes a decision for another person incapable of doing so. The decision can be made based on what the incapacitated individual would have wanted, or it could be made on substituted judgment of what the decision maker would want were he or she in the incapacitated person's place, or finally, the decision could be made by assessing objectively whether euthanasia is the most beneficial course of treatment. In any case, euthanasia by proxy consent is highly controversial, especially because multiple proxies may claim the authority to decide for the patient and may or may not have explicit consent from the patient to make that decision.
Euthanasia may be conducted passively, non-actively, and actively. Passive euthanasia entails the withholding of common treatments (such as antibiotics, pain medications, or surgery) or the distribution of a medication (such as morphine) to relieve pain, knowing that it may also result in death (principle of double effect). Passive euthanasia is the most accepted form, and it is a common practice in most hospitals. Non-active euthanasia entails the withdrawing of life support and is more controversial. Active euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances or forces to kill and is the most controversial means. An individual may use a euthanasia machine to perform euthanasia on himself or herself.
The term euthanasia comes from the Greek words "eu"-meaning good and...