Some Euthanasia Definitions

For those of you all who have prelims coming up and are starting to notice that there is a lot of jargon in the medical ethics section. Quite often there are questions that require you to understand one of these terms (or more). If you don’t know what they mean, you’ll really struggle – so flashcards are the order of the day….

Euthanasia – a person kills another or allows her to die for her own benefit

Active Euthanasia – a person does something that intentionally results in the others death

Passive Euthanasia – a person allows the other to die, even though keeping them alive is a possibility that is open. this usually involve withholding a treatment or food.

Voluntary Euthanasia – euthanasia where the person dying is able to, and does, express his wish to die

Non-voluntary Euthanasia – euthanasia where the patient is not able to express a preference (even if it may seem fairly obvious)

Involuntary Euthanasia – the death of the person is against their compentent wishes, this is usually where people mention the Nazis’ use of the word ‘euthanasia’. There are, however, cases where it is arguable that euthanasia against the person’s wishes, may be in their best interest. We usually use ‘Involuntary Euthanasia’ in this sense.

Suicide – someone intentionally kills themselves

Assisted Suicide – one person helps another to kill themselves (when they wish it)

Physician Assisted Suicide -as above, where the agent is a doctor.

The idea to write these down in one place came from ‘The Very Short Introduction to Medical Ethics’. It has a really good chapter on Euthanasia that should be useful for revision… It could have been written for Higher/Int 2 RMPS.

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