Euthanasia derives from a compound of two Greek words meaning “good death.” It involves the idea of “dying well,” that is, of avoiding or shortening suffering and instead implementing a relatively painless passage into death. Most expressions of euthanasia involve the idea of the assistance of another individual, usually a physician.

Euthanasia is most often used in reference to the hastening of the death, or “mercy killing,” of a severely ill individual. Various terms, however, have been developed to more clearly identify the different categories involved in the cessation of life. Among these are the following: passive euthanasia, active euthanasia, active voluntary euthanasia, and active involuntary euthanasia. There is also the use of palliative care, which involves the management of pain and discomfort without curative ...

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