Active euthanasia is a form of euthanasia in which a doctor takes an active role in ensuring that a patient dies. This is typically in contrast to passive euthanasia in which a doctor merely withholds treatment in order to ensure the death of a patient. Active euthanasia is typically more controversial than passive euthanasia, and is only legal in a handful of countries or regions within certain countries.
The word “euthanasia” derives from the Greek words eu, a prefix which means “good” or “well,” and thanatos, which means “death.” As such, euthanasia is typically literally translated as “good death” and has been used throughout history to afford a person with what has been seen, in various cultures and time periods, as a good or well-deserved death. In modern usage, it can continue to have this meaning for some people, while others see euthanasia as a form of murder or assisted suicide. While most forms of euthanasia can be controversial in certain situations, active euthanasia is often more so than passive types.
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Euthanasia, in general, is typically seen as an act that must be performed by a doctor or similar medical professional. Active euthanasia typically involves direct action on the part of a physician to ensure the death of a patient. There are a number of different ways in which this can be done, though the most common is typically an increase and overdose of medication that is used to reduce pain. By using this type of method, active euthanasia usually involves no pain for a person, and simply shuts the person’s physiological system down as he or she sleeps.
Active euthanasia is often very controversial due to the fact that a doctor or other medical professional must actively make an effort to end the life of a patient. This is typically done for a patient who repeatedly requests the end of his or her life. Most doctors who perform active euthanasia will only perform it on someone who is suffering from an illness that has greatly reduced his or her quality of life and which has no foreseeable treatment.
Passive euthanasia is fairly common and typically involves a doctor withholding medicine or treatments that are allowing a person to continue living. In some instances this can include no longer providing nutrition or liquids to an unconscious patient, or through methods such as “do not resuscitate” orders and shutting off life support systems. Active euthanasia, on the other hand, is far less common and as of 2010 was legal in only a few places, such as the Netherlands and in the states of Oregon and Washington in the US.