Last updated on: 4/12/2018 | Author:

What Is Euthanasia?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, in an entry updated on Apr. 2, 2018 and available at defined “euthanasia” as:

“[T]he act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy…

The word comes from the Greek euthanatos, which means ‘easy death.’ In English, euthanasia has been used in exactly this sense since the early seventeenth century, when Francis Bacon described the phenomenon as ‘after the fashion and semblance of a kindly & pleasant sleepe.’ Nowadays, the word usually refers to the means of attaining such a death.”

Apr. 2, 2018 - Merriam-Webster Online

The Oxford English Dictionary Online (2nd edition, 1989; online version Sep. 2011) provides the following definitions of euthanasia:

“A gentle and easy death… [T]he means of bringing about a gentle and easy death…

In recent use: The action of inducing a gentle and easy death. Used esp. with reference to a proposal that the law should sanction the putting painlessly to death of those suffering from incurable and extremely painful diseases.”

Sep. 2011 - Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Online

Michael Manning, MD, in his 1998 book Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: Killing or Caring?, traced the history of the word euthanasia:

“The term euthanasia… originally meant only ‘good death,’ but in modern society it has come to mean a death free of any anxiety and pain, often brought about through the use of medication. Most recently, it has come to mean ‘mercy killing’ — deliberately putting an end to someone’s life in order to spare the individual’s suffering.”

1998 - Michael Manning, MD

BBC News stated in its July 1, 1999 special report titled “A Euthanasia Glossary”:

“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.’ Three classes of euthanasia can be identified — passive euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide and active euthanasia — although not all groups would acknowledge them as valid terms.”

July 1, 1999 - BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

Ian Dowbiggin, PhD, Professor of History at the University of Prince Edward Island, wrote in his 2005 book A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine:

“The influential scientist and philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626)… was the first in history since Roman historian Suetonius (c. 70-140 AD)… to use the term ‘euthanasia’… [B]oth Bacon and Suetonius employed the word in its etymological meaning, that is, to signify an easy death through the mitigation of pain rather than a death hastened by a physician through the administration of poison.”

2005 - Ian Dowbiggin, PhD

Jonathan Moreno, PhD, wrote in his 1995 book Arguing Euthanasia: The Controversy Over Mercy Killing, Assisted Suicide, and the “Right to Die”:

“Strictly speaking, the term ‘euthanasia’ refers to actions or omissions that result in the death of a person who is already gravely ill. Techniques of active euthanasia range from gunfire to lethal injection, while passive euthanasia can be achieved by failing to treat a pneumonia or by witholding or withdrawing ventilatory support.”

1995 - Jonathan Moreno, PhD