A legal document that enables a patient to instruct others about future medical care wishes in the event that the patient is not able to speak for himself. Living wills and health care power of attorney documents are two common types of advance directives.
An order placed on a patient's file that instructs the doctor not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should the patient stop breathing or suffer cardiac arrest.
An ethical principle that claims it is acceptable if a morally good action has a morally bad side-effect, provided that the side-effect wasn't intended (even if it was foreseen). The principle is used to justify situations in which a doctor gives a patient drugs to relieve painful symptoms, when doing so may shorten the patient's life.
Euthanasia has many definitions. The Pro-Life Alliance defines it as: "Any action or omission intended to end the life of a patient on the grounds that his or her life is not worth living." The Voluntary Euthanasia Society looks to the word's Greek origins - "eu" and "thanatos," which together mean 'a good death' - and say a modern definition is: "A good death brought about by a doctor providing drugs or an injection to bring a peaceful end to the dying process."
A measure passed on Nov. 5, 1990 by the US Congress requiring Medicare and Medicaid providers to give adult patient's information about their medical care rights under state law, including the right to make an advance directive. The law also requires health care providers to discuss advance directives with patients as they enter into the health care system.
A document that lets a patient appoint someone to make medical decisions should the patient become unable to do so.
An ancient Greek medical text that is still recited by many medical school graduates to this day. It requires a new physician to swear that he will uphold certain professional ethical standards. The original version includes provisions against abortion, surgery, and euthanasia.
A facility designed to provide a caring environment for meeting the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill.
A written expression of how a patient wants to be treated in various medical situations should he not be able to speak for himself.
A concept to guide physicians in refusing to administer treatment to a patient who is approaching death, in the event that such treatment can no longer benefit the patient.
When a patient dies because medical professionals either don't do something necessary to keep the patient alive or stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive, such as withdraw life-support. See also Withdrawal of Treatment.
The scientific study of the nature of disease and its causes.
Persistent Vegetative State
A vegetative state is a condition of complete unawareness of the self and the environment, where patients show no evidence of sustained, purposeful, or voluntary behavioral responses to visual, auditory, or tactile stimuli, and where there is no evidence of language comprehension or expression. A persistent vegetative state is defined as a vegetative state present one month after acute traumatic or nontraumatic brain injury or lasting for at least one month in patients with degenerative disorders or abnormal development.
When a patient dies as a result of the voluntary ingestion of a fatal dose of medication that a physician has prescribed for that purpose.
When a patient chooses to end his/her own life with the aid of a physician.
To return to consciousness, often by employing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Right to Die
Advocating or expressing, as in a living will, a person's right to refuse extraordinary life-sustaining measures intended to prolong life artificially when the person is deemed by his or her physicians to be terminally or incurably ill, similar to Do Not Resuscitate Order.
An argument that an initial action taken will lead to an undesirable event occurring later. In the context of the euthanasia debate, the argument that legalizing voluntary euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide will lead to abuses such as legalized murder.
An illness expected to lead to a person's death in the near future.
Voluntary Active Euthanasia
Intentionally ending a patient's life at the patient's voluntary and informed request.
Withdrawal of Treatment
Also known as passive euthanasia, it refers to the withholding of life-sustaining treatment that is keeping the patient alive.