Euthanasia

The term Euthanasia is derived from the Greek, which translates to "good death". The term most normally suggests an intentional and deliberate termination of life, generally assisted by another at the explicit request of the individual who wishes to end their live. Euthanasia is most usually defined as the deliberate act of killing an incurably ill person, out of concern and compassion for that individual's intolerable or growing suffering. It is sometimes referred too as mercy killing, but many advocates of euthanasia tend to define mercy killing more precisely as the ending of another person's life; without the individual direct request. Euthanasia, on the other hand, is usually separated into two main categories: that being passive euthanasia and active euthanasia.

Passive Euthanasia is defined as the hastening of the death of an individual by changing some form of existing support that is in use, and ultimately allowing nature to take its course. Examples include; turning off respirators, which were in place to assist breathing - halting life critical medications or discontinuing essential sustenance, such as food and water. Equally removing a drip which supplies the fluids necessary to maintain life - without which, an individual will dehydrate or starve to death. Alternatively doing nothing in a crisis situation, this equates to the deliberate decision not to administer resuscitation.

Passive euthanasia also covers the use of large doses of morphine to control pain, this method is often used in the knowledge that the painkiller will suppress the individual's respiration, and cause death sooner than otherwise medically anticipated. Such large doses of morphine have a dual effect. They relieve severe pain as well as hasten the death of the individual. The administration of opiates is regarded as ethical, and is a practiced by most medically enabled societies. The use of this procedure is also used on the terminally ill, the medical ethics is based on the suffering of the individual - which outweighs any other form of short term palliative or intensive care that can be provided - therefore hastening the natural death is an act of compassion. The same approach but different ethics are applied to individuals who are in a persistent vegetative state; for example, individuals with brain damage, or in a coma from which they will unlikely ever regain consciousness. Exhaustive neurological testing of brain activities is carried out to ascertain brain activity before such decisions are made. Passive euthanasia also covers the use of large doses of morphine to control pain, this method is often used in the knowledge that the painkiller will suppress the individual's respiration, and cause death sooner than otherwise medically anticipated. Such large doses of morphine have a dual effect. They relieve severe pain as well as hasten the death of the individual. The administration of opiates is regarded as ethical, and is a practiced by most medically enabled societies. The use of this procedure is also used on the terminally ill, the medical ethics is based on the suffering of the individual - which outweighs any other form of short term palliative or intensive care that can be provided - therefore hastening the natural death is an act of compassion. The same approach but different ethics are applied to individuals who are in a persistent vegetative state; for example, individuals with brain damage, or in a coma from which they will unlikely ever regain consciousness. Exhaustive neurological testing of the brain activities is carried out to ascertain what if any brain activity remains before such decisions are made.

Active euthanasia is in fact a punishable serious crime, and is a topic of far more controversy - debate continue to rage within and across medical, religious and cultural perspectives in regard to active euthanasia, and the definition of the nature of the crime. Active euthanasia involves knowingly causing the death of a person through a direct action, in response to a request from that person. One of the most well-known examples is that of British Doctor Nigel Cox. Dr Cox, who is a consultant rheumatologist at Winchester's Royal Hampshire County Hospital, had been responsible for the care of Mrs Boyes for over 13 years, when in in August 1991, Mrs Boyes aged 70, had repeatedly pleaded with Dr Cox to help her end her limited life.

Mrs Boyes, was suffering from acute progressive and untreatable rheumatoid arthritis. She was in acute pain and such was the extent that she could not be physically touched without high doses of opiates being administered. Dr Cox administered one more ampoule of potassium chloride that was recommended, knowing that this would accelerate the death of Mrs Boyes. Doctor Cox stated that this shortened Mrs Boyes life by 15- 60 minutes. Dr Cox's was charged with attempted murder, convicted in September 1992, and received a 12 month suspended sentence - however he was still allowed to practise privately during this time, and retained his medical career as the , General Medical Council's professional conduct committee decided no further action would be taken. Dr Cox returned to work the following February under supervision.

Physician-Assisted Suicide is somewhat of a hybrid and a legal paradox, as it sits between passive and active euthanasia - It is also known as voluntary passive euthanasia. An example being, that if a doctor knowingly supplies information directly relating to the dosage required to terminate the individuals life the doctor is commiting a punishable crime - however such is the lack of legal definition; this is the hardest to prove, as many prescriptions administered, carry the warning of overdose, so proof of a specific conversation or a deliberate supply of lethal dosage has to be proved.

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