“Today, a primary goal of both movements aimed at care of the dying – palliative care and euthanasia – is to eliminate suffering. These are underpinned by the idea that a good death is a painless death. But it wasn’t always so.
The term ‘euthanasia’ is derived from the Greek for good death, but it only began to be used in a modern and familiar way in the late 19th century. For centuries in Western societies, ‘euthanasia’ referred to a pious death blessed by God.
The means of achieving a good death was set out in the enormously popular ars moriendi (art of dying) guides that offered prayers, attitudes and actions intended to guide the dying towards salvation. This wasn’t necessarily a painless process. Far and away the most reproduced image of good dying was Christ’s crucifixion…
In the 19th century, pain began to be seen as a discrete and aberrant physiological phenomenon. Both dying and suffering were increasingly medicalised. Doctors gradually took over from the clergy and family as carers of the dying.
At the same time, the word ‘euthanasia’ took on a new meaning. It began to refer to this new medical duty to assist the terminally ill – but not to hasten death.”Sep. 26, 2017