Euthanasia is a medical practice that aims to cause the death of terminally ill patients in order to alleviate their suffering and allow them to rest in peace.
Thus, it is a process that by action, by drugs, substances or surgical interventions, or by omission, removes the support that keeps him alive or ceases to intervene to shorten his life, ends up leading the intentional death of the patient. However, certain variables can lead to different types of euthanasia such as the action of the doctor, the will of the patient or the goal of the practice.
As it is a sensitive issue like death, it is controversial, with arguments against and in favor of euthanasia. In fact, this is currently only legally possible in 7 countries.
In this article, we will learn what types of euthanasia exist and what this process consists of.which countries have this practice legalized, which types of euthanasia exist and which arguments are against and in favor of this medical procedure.
What is euthanasia?
Etymologically, euthanasia means “good death”. In most cases, we understand euthanasia as the medical process of ending the life of a terminally ill person, freeing them from the suffering that entails.. Thus, the action taken is voluntary and intentionally directed to cause the death of the individual.
It is important differentiate euthanasia from other practices such as assisted suicidewhich consists of rescuing a sick person with the aim of ending his life, but in this case the one who performs the action is the patient himself.
Euthanasia is currently practiced legally in 7 countries: the Netherlands (the first country to legalize it in 2002), Belgium (2002), Luxembourg (2009), Colombia (2014), Canada (2006 ), and Spain and New Zealand (2021).
Types of euthanasia
As we have already seen, euthanasia has a concrete definition, with particular characteristics that must be met to be considered as such. Always, there are small variations that lead to different types of euthanasia. The variables that make it possible to distinguish between the different euthanasia practices are the role played by the doctor, the will expressed by the patient or even the purpose of the action.
1. Direct euthanasia
We are talking about direct euthanasia when the act performed by the doctor is intended to cause the death of the terminally ill patient. This type of euthanasia is in turn divided into active and passive, depending on the performance of the professional.
1.1. Active direct euthanasia
Active or positive direct euthanasia is so called the active involvement of the doctor in the death of the patient. The professional performs an action, either the administration of a drug or the practice of an intervention which causes the intentional death of the subject. As we have seen, the goal is to reduce suffering and provide a painless death so that we can rest.
1.2. Passive direct euthanasia
Passive or negative direct euthanasia also aims to cause the death of the patient, but in this case, the person dies for inaction. In other words, the patient does not die from the intentional action of the professional, but from the cessation of a practice or the withdrawal of the support that keeps the patient alive.
Although in this case no action is taken as such, intentionality and responsibility lie with the doctor, since it is the omission of his conduct that causes the death of the patient.
2. Indirect euthanasia
Indirect euthanasia it does not appear as its main objective to cause the death of the terminally ill patient, but to lessen his pain. These practices can be observed applied in palliative treatments, where the disease is incurable and, in order to reduce the suffering and pain of the patient, drugs are administered with an analgesic function which, as an undesirable effect, shortens the life of the patient. subject, causing death earlier than expected.
The process to reach the ultimate goal, death, will be slower than that seen in direct euthanasia, but the result in both cases will be relief from suffering and pain.
3. Voluntary euthanasia
In voluntary euthanasia, as its name suggests, the terminally ill patient expresses his will to die.. Thus, the patient is the one who requests euthanasia at the present time, or has done so before (for example, he left in writing that he wanted euthanasia to be performed if at the time he did not was not able to convey such a desire, impaired cognitive abilities).
4. Involuntary euthanasia
With reference to involuntary euthanasia, the person who communicates to the professional the desire to perform euthanasia is not the patient himself, but a third person, who is generally a relative of the patient.
When the time comes to make the decision, given the circumstances in which the patient finds himself, such as a decrease in consciousness or a loss of cognitive faculties, he cannot communicate his will.nor did he leave it in writing beforehand, in this case being one of his relatives who makes the decision, fulfilling the wish previously expressed by the patient and thus allowing him to stop suffering.
5. Eugenic euthanasia
Eugenic euthanasia proposes the death of individuals for the purpose of “improving the race”, i.e. for ideological purposes. In this case, the practice is not aimed at ending the suffering of the patient, but at death. it is performed with the aim of “perfecting” the human species from a discriminatory logic. It can also be performed before the birth of the individual, in which case abortion is considered.
Examples of this type of euthanasia would be ending the lives of weak subjects, with some sort of affectation, or simply ending subjects who exhibit specific characteristics that do not fit the “strong race” such as it happened to Jews during the Nazi Holocaust. .
6. Pious euthanasia
In pious euthanasia, unlike eugenics, the ultimate goal is to allow the terminally ill to rest in peace. Thus, it is linked to the definition given to euthanasia, harboring the possibility of doing it in different ways, with or without the consent of the patient, as we have seen.
Reasons for and against euthanasia
As mentioned in the introduction, euthanasia is still a controversial practice. Thus, both the group for and the group against will give valid arguments to defend their point of view or their beliefs.
Supporters of his case have been working to make the actual transcript of that statement available online. an immoral procedure that goes against what is humanly correct. As much as we know the situation is difficult and complicated, there is always hope and a slight thought within us to ensure that everything ends well. For this reason, it is difficult to accept that euthanasia is the best option, because the idea of a possible cure will always arise in us.
On the other hand, we also observe the ethical and moral influence, when the doctor, who, as we have seen, must be the one who performs or omits the action that causes the death of the patient, feels remorse for letting a patient die and doing nothing to save them. He acts against his main role as a doctor, which is to treat, and therefore he also has a responsibility that can be difficult to accept.
Instead, proponents of euthanasia will say that it is up to the patient to decide what he wants to do with his life. To continue to endure suffering and pain when the disease is terminal and there is no possibility of improvement is worse for the patient and his family than finally letting him rest in peace. Ultimately, we have to look at the well-being of the patient and assess what is best for them. Let him continue to suffer when we know he may not recover more immoral than helping him achieve his desire. to rest.
We then see how, depending on the factors or the point of view chosen, the arguments can vary and have the same meaning, even if they contradict each other. For this reason, each country decides if it accepts and legalizes the practice of euthanasia, each also providing its own modes of action or characteristics to be respected, for example the number of doctors to authorize, who requests euthanasia, the age of the terminally ill patient, the times when it is necessary to express the intention of wanting euthanasia to be performed.
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- Vega, J. (2000) Euthanasia: concept, types, ethical and legal aspects. Attitudes of nursing staff towards the terminally ill patient. Bioethics.