Understanding the Nature and Consequences of Euthanasia

Taken in our modern context, euthanasia, also called mercy killing is the act or practise of painlessly putting to death persons or animals that are suffering from painful and incurable diseases or incapacitating disorder. 1 Although there are so many people who vehemently oppose euthanasia, a recent Gallup poll showed that around 60% of the people living in the United States are in favor of mercy killing (Carroll J., 2006). The figures shown in the survey may not be conclusive but it gives an idea of what people are thinking about matters involving life and death in the United States. The survey gives us a glimpse of how our society views the morality of taking the lives of people in the guise of mercy. The question of whether or not it is righteous to kill a person because one is compelled by compassion is indeed something that we must ponder upon at great length.To help us understand better what is euthanasia, let us first look into the different circumstances involved in this act. Euthanasia can be classified as active and passive. According to Strayer (2006), active euthanasia is intentional killing and is often performed by a physician upon the request of the patient or his/her family. On the other hand, Strayer (2006) defined passive euthanasia as a state where the doctor allows the patient to die by withholding some form of treatment or life support from the patient. In most parts of the world, euthanasia is considered illegal and punishable under the law. However, in countries like Belgium, The Netherlands and Switzerland, mercy killing is considered legal. In the United States, only the State of Oregon allows euthanasia under the Death with Dignity Act while the State of Texas allows the withdrawal of life support on terminally ill patients under the Texas Futile Care Law.Active euthanasia can be categorized into three.