What is Euthanasia or a Physician Assisted Death?

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When someone’s life becomes unbearable (mostly) because of illness, one may want to end it for good. Willingly accepting death, under expert’s supervision, with the assistance from someone else, is called Euthanasia. It is generally performed to achieve a death as painlessly as possible.  


The word Euthanasia is derived from a Greek word “thanatos”, which means ‘good death” or an intentional move to end a life in order to get a person relieved from an intolerable pain. It may definitely be differentiated from the word suicide due to an additional consent of the other parties. There are two categories of Euthanasia; voluntary and involuntary. From the name involuntary it is clear that patient’s consent in ending their life is not there, so it is illegal everywhere and voluntary Euthanasia is the one in which the patient gives the consent and it is legal in some countries.

Will of the patient

Physician assisted death and euthanasia both cause an end to the patient’s life due to the immense suffering caused by prolonged and incurable disease. Although in the former one, the physician only provides the suitable way to end the life through prescription and use of that prescription is totally up to the will of the patient and the later is the active participation of the physician in fulfilling the patient’s request by administrating the lethal dose directly into the blood stream. Both, however, are means to end the patient’s life.


According to the available record, Euthanasia was first used when Emperor Augustus wished to experience his death in his wife’s arms. Francis Bacon was the first one to use this word in 17th century during which the burden to eliminate the patient’s pain was on the shoulders of the physician. It was an effort to cause painless death of a patient suffering miserably. Here, while defining euthanasia or patient assisted death, it must be made clear that the killing is only done keeping in view the condition of the patient and the physician must have reasons to believe and has thorough knowledge of the details of the pain a patient is undergoing. In short, it must not be a deliberate move to end one’s life without any need for it. The English laws regard euthanasia as bad as murder because of the identical consequences that both end life, yet there is a debate that euthanasia is performed when the patients sufferings make them think that death is easier than life and they can no longer withstand pain.


The Oxford dictionary also highlights euthanasia as a medium to kill a patient in a painless manner suffering from the incurable disease or an irreversible state of unconsciousness. It has also been stated by Mavin Kohl, the author of “Morality of Killing” and Paul Kurtz, a humanitarian, that it is an act to end the patient’s sufferings that too in a painless manner.


Various arguments have given rise in different cultures involving moral, religious and ethical controversies. The religious aspect is however not neglected in any culture which refrains from ending a life intentionally irrespective of the fact that intolerable pain has already madethe patient’s life miserable so much so that he prefers death over life.

In a nutshell, Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are meant to cause an end to a person’s life in a merciful manner generally known as painless death but the physician must have sufficient reasons for performing such an act which should be in the best interest of the patient believing that ending a life is a better idea than to leave the patient suffering.

Key Facts and Statistics:

  • There has been an ongoing debate on Euthanasia in the United States and also in other countries since the beginning of the 1800s.
  • In the United States, a society for euthanasia was established in 1938.
  • 91% of Washington State’s voters voted in support of the Death with Dignity Act, and it became law in the year 2009.
  • According to a Gallup poll, 73% of the U.S respondents were in support of the euthanasia, and 67% were in support of the doctor-assisted suicide in 2017.
  • As per Gallup, 55% of the people who weekly went to churches, and 87% of the people who were irregular in attending churches were in favor of euthanasia in 2017.
  • According to the Gallup poll, 90% of the liberals, 79% of the moderates and 60% of the conservatives were in support of euthanasia in 2017.
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