Euthanasia means different things to different people. The definition provided by www.euthanasia.com states that euthanasia is “the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. (The key word here is "intentional". If death is not intended, it is not an act of euthanasia)”. There are several key definitions listed on the euthanasia site such as voluntary euthanasia, involuntary euthanasia, assisted suicide, and euthanasia by action or omission. There are those who feel that euthanasia is an act of compassion at the end of ones life, while others such as www.euthanasia.com state that they “are committed to the fundamental belief that the intentional killing of another person is wrong.” The information outlined in this paper will help the reader to identify an understanding of what euthanasia is, how this practice is viewed by the rest of the world where the services are legal, the pros and cons, the affect it has on healthcare workers, patient centered experiences, as well as what patients use as an alternative to this practice.
The roots of euthanasia can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome, before Christianity became widespread in the region according to Dowbiggin (2003). The attitudes of the Greeks and Romans found it socially acceptable to include infanticide, active euthanasia, and suicide as a means to end suffering in the face of prolonged suffering and agony (Dowbiggin 2003). At this time of paganism there was no defined belief in the inherent value of individualized human life, so the likelihood of physicians performing abortions or mercy killings was very high (Dowbiggin 2003). Although there was a Hippocratic Oath during this time few followed the oath faithfully (Dowbiggin 2003). Dowbiggin goes on to state that:
“These values and practices clashed sharply with Judaic and Christian beliefs about suicide and the inherent value of life. Like Judaism, Christianity teaches that God endowed human life with intrinsic value. From the first century A.D. to the twentieth century, virtually all Christians condemned suicide as a means of escaping the suffering that afflicts human beings. This accounted for the uniformity of opinion throughout Christendom about the virtues of extending human life and enduring suffering when death approached as an essential part of God's providential plan for each and every individual."
Once Christianity became more widespread, it is easy to see that the trend moved towards saving each and every person’s life, even to the detriment to the quality of life experienced before death. Early Christians built hospitals and cared for the sick, while many monks became Hippocratic physicians and continued the Hippocratic tradition through the Dark Ages (Reville 2010). Largely driven by Christian ideals, medicine and nursing spread throughout the world, and remained under this Hippocratic-Christian consensus until the 1950’s (Reville 2010). In...