Research, Technology

The right to die: what is euthanasia and where is it allowed

In the vastness of the vast universe there is nothingeternal. All living organisms inhabiting our planet will die sooner or later. However, like you and me. Moreover, human life by the standards of the Universe is only a fraction of a second. But for us, this is a significant time. Increasing life expectancy, alas, is expensive: the older we get, the more diseases can threaten us. For example, oncological diseases can be extremely painful and patients cannot do without medical support and care. Often, people with severe and incurable diseases perceive death as a release from suffering, and therefore think about euthanasia - a voluntary departure from life. Today, this procedure is allowed in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, as well as in some states of the USA, Canada and Switzerland (euthanasia is prohibited by law in Russia). At the same time, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) oppose such a practice. The reason for the negative attitude towards euthanasia are ethical and social problems. On the one hand, euthanasia, at the request of the patient, relieves him of suffering. On the other hand, for the doctors performing the procedure, such an experience can be a difficult test. So can a person, being of sound mind, exercise his right to die? One way or another, we ourselves decide how to manage our own life, besides, death is an integral part of it.

Euthanasia is helping a terminally ill person die out of compassion.


  • 1 Right to die
  • 2 Types of euthanasia
  • 3 Honorable death or murder?
  • 4 Death on demand
  • 5 Euthanasia in Russia

Right to die

Word euthanasia comes from the Greek words "eu" (good) and"thanatos" (death). The idea is not to condemn a person with a terminal illness to a slow, painful, or undignified death. Euthanasia gives such a patient the right to a relatively good and painless death. And, as you might have guessed, this procedure is one of the oldest issues in medical ethics, and most religious movements consistently oppose euthanasia.

Proponents of voluntary euthanasia rightlynote that most of the people living on the planet independently choose a life partner, friends and profession. Since our species is adapted to survive, medicine aims to improve the quality of life and prolong it. At the same time, some ailments are extremely painful and unreasonably long. Why then can't we decide how we want to die?

The possibilities of medicine can provide the patienta dignified death - in the end, the main task of medicine is not to prolong life or improve health, but to alleviate suffering, some researchers believe.

Some incurable diseases bring pain and unbearable suffering

It should be noted that deliverance from sufferingseverely ill patients is significantly different from depression and suicidal thoughts. Chronic depression robs a person of the ability to enjoy life and is subject to mandatory treatment. Surprisingly, as soon as certain chemicals in the brain work without disturbance, a person suffering from depression regains the desire to live. For this reason, all applications for dying assistance (in countries where euthanasia is legal) are carefully reviewed by a medical board.

We talked about what depression is and why its symptoms cannot be ignored in this article, we recommend reading it.

Types of euthanasia

In recent years, thousands of people have resorted toeuthanasia. The vast majority of them are cancer patients in the last stages of the disease. Another characteristic moment today is the increase in the number of forms of euthanasia - from the more classical, for the terminally ill, to the most modern. Thus, there are a number of critical differences between active/passive and voluntary/involuntary euthanasia and natural death. The main types of euthanasia include:

  • Active (direct) euthanasia is the act ofexercising the right to die by injection under the supervision of a physician or other authorized person. In most cases, euthanasia is carried out in terminally ill patients, and the list of diseases is very extensive.
  • Passive (negative, indirect) euthanasia isactions to withhold or avoid food, drink, and oxygenation in a person who is in what is known as a "permanent vegetative state" or someone whose health condition, in the opinion of the attending physicians, is not improving fast enough.
  • Voluntary euthanasia is permitted in cases wherewhen the patient is free from direct or indirect pressure from others. This form is characterized by the patient's repeated and clearly articulated statement about the desire to die (in the absence of depression).
  • Involuntary euthanasia is possible when a personis unconscious or otherwise unable to consent to the procedure. In countries where euthanasia is practiced, permission may be granted by a court or family members.

vthanasia is the termination of the life of a person suffering from an incurable disease, experiencing unbearable suffering.

Interestingly, passive euthanasia is allowed inmore countries than the active one and is used in cases where the patient does not want to continue treatment, preferring to die of natural causes. The patient must also be of sound mind, and his decision must be fully justified. Some diseases can cause people unbearable pain, and palliative care does not always help in getting rid of it.

Interesting fact
In 1980, the Vatican announced the definition of euthanasia as "Action or inaction leading to death, with the aim of eliminating all suffering."

Honorable death or murder?

Today, more and more countries are discussing the legalizationeuthanasia. However, criticism and outright prohibition of the procedure are found almost all over the world - after all, euthanasia has been a subject of debate for centuries. Its proponents argue that no one should experience incurable suffering. Their opponents oppose believing that it is not the job of a doctor to decide the fate of a patient, even if the patient has consented to the procedure.

Another argument concerns directlymurder, which initially is not correct. As scientists write in a paper published in the journal Physician-assisted Suicide, many doctors consider euthanasia to be an ethical aspect that helps shape a person’s morality, as well as his behavior and actions in accordance with it.

With active euthanasia, the doctor must obtain permission from relatives or the patient himself.

Speaking somewhat roughly, then euthanasiacondemned not for the relief of pain, but for the direct and purposeful death of the patient. But as soon as doctors become involved in murder (euthanasia), their fragile and trusting relationships with patients are destroyed before our eyes. People trust their lives to doctors and healthcare professionals, knowing that they are dedicated to saving lives, healing and caring. After all, the Hippocratic Oath includes the obligation not to kill the patient, even if he himself asks for it. Related to this argument is the role of palliative care.

Australian Medical Association Expertsbelieve that even the best palliative care cannot help all patients - from 5-10% of patients consider their suffering so unbearable that they insistently ask for death. “Our palliative and medical care is highly valued, but it cannot be one hundred percent effective,” says the text of another interesting scientific work.

This is interesting: Secrets of the brain: is it really euphoria before death?

The central argument against euthanasia issociety's opinion about the value of human life, which can have both a secular and a religious basis. The underlying principle is respect for life and its preservation. At the same time, in recent years, thousands of terminally ill people have resorted to euthanasia. And, as the results of the studies show, the more patients ask for help in dying, the more requests come in. In addition, there is an opinion that any change in the status quo will inevitably lead to an increase in abuse.

Death on demand

If you look at euthanasia from the other side, thenits supporters and opponents are representatives of various social groups. For example, many physicians take a clear position in favor or against the legalization of euthanasia. But despite different beliefs, some experts allow euthanasia in exceptional cases. So, in January 2022, Colombian Victor Escobar obtained permission for euthanasia. The 60-year-old man was battling a lung disease that left him unable to breathe on his own. In the last frames where he is alive, you can see how he smiles and is surrounded by his family: he was given a sedative, and then given a lethal injection.

Colombia lifted euthanasia ban in 1997year, and in July 2021, the court determined the “right to a dignified death” for terminally ill patients. However, access to the procedure does not always go smoothly: until mid-2021, patients like Escobar, with chronic diseases and a life expectancy of more than six months, could not count on help in dying. The struggle of the man lasted two years: the medical community at first denied Escobar a lethal injection, but the court to which the man applied recognized his desire to voluntarily die as legal.

Colombian fought for the right to a dignified death for two years

I want my story to be known because it paves the way for patients like me, patients with degenerative diseases, to an open door in search of peace,” Escobar said.

When a State decides tolegalization of euthanasia, legislation must include strong and effective measures against abuse. Moreover, support for euthanasia cannot be an absolute position. People may support some of its forms while rejecting others. From the point of view of the state, euthanasia depends on how its postulates are formulated in the legislation. Religious beliefs play a huge role in this difficult issue - the right to life is granted from above and interrupting it in this way is considered an unforgivable sin.

Don't Miss: Psychogenic Death: How Does the Loss of the Will to Live Kill?

Euthanasia in Russia

In our country, euthanasia is prohibited, soTerminally ill patients are referred to a hospice where they receive palliative care and care. Nevertheless, in 2011, the Federal Law “On the Basics of Protecting the Health of Citizens in the Russian Federation” was adopted, which provides for the right of the patient or his legal representative (if the person is in a vegetative state) to refuse medical intervention. For example, from artificial life support: artificial nutrition, ventilation of the lungs and the installation of pacemakers. And the refusal of medical intervention is not euthanasia in Russia.

Euthanasia is prohibited in our country.

But if you put yourself in the place of a seriously illof a person (mostly of advanced age), it is unlikely that anyone would want to experience unbearable pain. Frankly speaking, we all will die one way or another, and in what way and for what reasons, it is not known for certain. How do you feel about euthanasia? You can discuss this difficult topic in our cozy Telegram chat, as well as in the comments to this article.