Encyclopedia Concise Britannica (2004 Edition) archived facts that euthanasia is painless killing of a person who has a painful, incurable disease or incapacitating disorder. Most legal systems consider it murder, though in many jurisdictions a physician may lawfully decide not to prolong the patient's life or may give drugs to relieve pain even if they shorten the patient's life. Associations promoting legal euthanasia exist in many countries. The legalization movement has gained ground with advancing medical technology, which has been used to prolong the lives of patients who are enduring extreme suffering or who are comatose or unable to communicate their wishes. Euthanasia was legalized in The Netherlands in 2001 and in Belgium in 2002. In 1997 Oregon became the first state in the United States of America to decriminalize physician-assisted suicide.
Euthanasia, derived from Greek for "good death," refers to the termination of the life of a person suffering from a painful and incurable medical condition. It is also widely known as "mercy killing,". According to Doudera, A. Edward, and J. Douglas Peters, (eds. Legal and Ethical Aspects of Treating Critically and Terminally Ill Patients) Euthanasia is distinguished from suicide by the necessary participation of a third party, typically either a physician or family member. Twenty-first-century disputes over euthanasia are often seen as a by product of advances in biomedical technology capable of prolonging a person's life indefinitely. Indeed, the moral and legal aspects of euthanasia are extremely complicated, as experts distinguish between active and passive euthanasia as well as voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Additional issues include the definition of a "terminal" illness and whether pain, an intractable disease, or both, are required to make the practice morally acceptable.
Such complexity has led to a variety of legal positions worldwide. The United States officially forbids euthanasia, while some European countries, such as Switzerland, Germany, Poland, and Norway, are more lenient allowing for a variety of mitigating circumstances and reduced criminal penalties. In 1993 the Netherlands passed a law prescribing guidelines for medically assisted suicide; Uruguay has exempted mercy killing from criminal prosecution since 1933.
MERCY KILLING: THE ORIGIN & ITS CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Mercy killing, (Humphry, Derek. Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying. Eugene, Ore.: Hemlock Society, 1991, Re ed 2006) practiced since time immemorial, has been debated throughout history. Ancient Greek, Indian, and Asian texts describe infanticide as an acceptable solution for children physically unsuited for or incapable of living. In Plato's Phaedo, when Socrates drinks hemlock, a poison, he maintains his dignity in death, an action immortalized in the modern pro-euthanasia organization, the Hemlock Society.
While many other Greeks, including Aristotle and the Stoics, sanctioned