Euthanasia is the practice of mercifully ending a person's life in order to release the person from an incurable disease, intolerable suffering, or undignified death. The word euthanasia derives from the Greek word for "good death' and originally referred to intentional mercy killing. It had been accepted by various groups or societies throughout history. However, as Christianity developed and grew, euthanasia became morally wrong and ethically abhorrent and is viewed as a violation of God's gift of life. Also, with medical advances making the extending of lives of dying or comatose patients possible, euthanasia is applied to a lack of action to prevent death. Active Euthanasia involves painlessly putting individuals to death for merciful reasons, as when a doctor administers a lethal dose of medication to a patient.

Passive euthanasia involves not doing something in order to prevent death, as when doctors refrain from using an artificial respirator to keep alive a terminally ill patient. In voluntary euthanasia, a person asks to die (by either active or passive euthanasia). Non voluntary euthanasia refers to ending the life of a person who is not mentally competent to make an informed request to die, such as a comatose patient. Although it is hard to determine the actual number of active euthanasia, the New England Journal Of Medicine published that only about 6 percent of physicians surveyed reported that they had helped a patient hasten his / her death by administering a lethal injection, even though 18 percent said that they had received requests.

However, one-fifth of the physicians said they would be willing to assist patients if it were legal to do so. The controversy over active euthanasia remains intense, in part because of opposition from religious groups and many members of legal and medical professions. Opponents of voluntary active euthanasia emphasize that health-care providers have professional obligations that prohibit killing. These opponents maintain that active euthanasia is inconsistent with the roles of nursing, care giving, and healing. Opponents also argue that permitting physicians to engage in active euthanasia creates intolerable risks of abuse and misuse of the power over life and death. They acknowledge that particular instances of active euthanasia may sometimes be morally justified.

However, opponents argue that authorizing the practice of killing would, on balance, cause more harm than benefit. Laws in the United States maintain the distinction between passive and active euthanasia. Until the late 1970 s, whether or not patients possessed a legal right of refusal was highly disputed. Every U. S.

state has adopted laws that authorize legally competent individuals to make advanced directives, often referred to as living wills. As of mid-1999, only one U. S. state, Oregon, had enacted a law allowing physicians to actively assist patients who wish to end their lives. However, Oregon's law concerns assisted suicide rather than active euthanasia. It authorizes physicians to prescribe lethal amounts of medication that patients then carry out themselves.

My reaction to euthanasia is one of mixed feelings. Although I support the rights of patients and respect their decisions to use euthanasia, I'm not sure that the patient is clearly thinking at that time (whether because of pain or illness) and really wants their life to be over. Also, I'm not sure if I would be able to let that person go if it was someone close to me, like my mother or father. I think that if the person had created a living will where they requested someone to end their life if they were terminally ill, I would honor their request but I don't think I could pull the plug myself. I would also be concerned that, if it was to become legal, would euthanasia get out of hand and would we have a society where people would be killing each other off in the name of euthanasia? That's a thought.