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euthanasiaEuthanasia is the intentional and painless taking of the life of another person, by act or omission, for compassionate motives. The word euthanasia is derived from the Ancient Greek language and can be literally interpreted as ‘good death.’ Despite its etymology, the question whether or not euthanasia is in fact a ‘good death’ is highly controversial. Correct terminology in debates about euthanasia is crucial. Euthanasia may be performed by act or omission - either by administering a legal drug or by withdrawing basic health care which normally sustains life (such as food, water or antibiotics). The term euthanasia mostly refers to the taking of human life on request of that person – the euthanasia is voluntary. However, euthanasia may also occur without the request of person who subsequently – euthanasia is non-voluntary. Involuntary euthanasia refers to the taking of a person’s life against that person’s expressed wish/direction.

Central to discussion on euthanasia is the notion of intention. While death may be caused by an action or omission of medical staff during treatment in hospital, euthanasia only occurs if death was intended. For example, if a doctor provides a dying patient extra morphine with the intention of relieving pain but knowing that his actions may hasten death, he has not performed euthanasia unless his intention was to cause death (Principle of Double Effect). Euthanasia may be distinguished from a practice called physician-assisted suicide, which occurs when death is brought about by the persons own hand (by means provided to him or her by another person). All practices of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are illegal in Australia.