Last updated on: 4/12/2001 | Author:

What Is Non-Voluntary Euthanasia?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

James Fieser, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee at Martin, in a Sep. 1, 2017 version of the manuscript, “Moral Issues that Divide Us,” available via his faculty profile at, stated:

“Another distinction is between voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is when a competent adult requests or gives informed consent to a particular death-causing action. This is the scenario that we have so far been presuming with Bob’s case: he is conscious, rational, and in a proper mental state by which he can make a willful request. Often, though, people do not have the mental competence to make these decisions, such as when they are unconscious, delirious, or demented. In these situations an act of euthanasia would be nonvoluntary when the decision is made by a third party, and not the person himself who is to die. For example, if Bob fell into a coma, Bob’s wife might have made the decision to terminate his life. It is important to note, though, that the term ‘nonvoluntary’ does not mean the same thing as ‘involuntary.’ An involuntary act is one which is imposed on a person against his will, such as if Bob did not want to die and his physician gave him a lethal injection anyway. This would be a case of murder, and not mercy killing. Rather, with nonvoluntary euthanasia, a patient is incompetent to make a decision, and a third-party steps in as a surrogate to make the call on behalf of the patient’s best interests.”

Sep. 1, 2017 - James Fieser, PhD

The BBC website’s Religion and Ethics section on euthanasia explained (accessed on Aug. 20, 2007) :

“Non-Voluntary Euthanasia: The person cannot make a decision or cannot make their wishes known. This includes cases where:

  • the person is in a coma
  • the person is too young (e.g. a very young baby)
  • the person is senile
  • the person is mentally retarded to a very severe extent
  • the person is severely brain damaged
  • the person is mentally disturbed in such a way that they should be protected from themselves.”
  • Aug. 20, 2007 - BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

    M. Cathleen Kaveny, JD, PhD, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law, in her 1997 Theological Studies article, “Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia, and the Law,” explained:

    “The term ‘euthanasia’ in general refers to a situation in which one party adopts a course of action with the intention of causing the death of a second party in order to alleviate suffering…’nonvoluntary’ euthanasia is performed on patients who have expressed and can express no view on the matter.”

    1997 - Cathleen Kaveny, JD, PhD

    Jonathan Moreno, PhD, in the introduction to the 1995 book Arguing Euthanasia, explained:

    “Passive euthanasia in the absence of knowledge of the patient’s wishes (nonvoluntary) remains controversial… Within the meaning of active euthanasia, the difference between voluntary euthanasia and nonvoluntary euthanasia is also important… active nonvoluntary euthanasia may be performed on a patient who is not competent and who has not requested it.”

    1995 - Jonathan Moreno, PhD