Medical Definition of Euthanasia

Euthanasia: The practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering. The word "euthanasia" comes straight out of the Greek -- "eu", goodly or well + "thanatos", death = the good death.

It refers to the situation when a doctor induces the death with a lethal injection, of a patient who is suffering unrelievably and has persistently requested the doctor to do so.

The Netherlands is the only country in the world where euthanasia is openly practiced. It is not specifically allowed by statute, but Dutch law accepts a standard defense from doctors who have adhered to official guidelines. These guidelines hinge on the voluntariness of the request and the unrelievable-ness of the suffering. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are defined by the State Commission on Euthanasia. Euthanasia is the intentional termination of life by somebody other than the person concerned at his or her request. Assisted suicide means intentionally helping a patient to terminate his or her life at his or her request.

Under Dutch law euthanasia is the termination of life by a doctor at the express wish of a patient. The request to the doctor must be voluntary, explicit and carefully considered and it must have been made repeatedly. Moreover, the patient's suffering must be unbearable and without any prospect of improvement.

Pain relief administered by a Dutch doctor may shorten a patient's life. As is the case in other countries, in this is seen as a normal medical decision in terminal care and not as euthanasia.

Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016

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