Mercy killing & Legalities

Mercy killing is the more common term used when indicating euthanasia. This is often practiced in instances wherein patients survive solely on the aid of life-support machines. There are also instances of euthanasia concerning individuals who suffer extreme pain which is not capable of alleviation through the use of known medications or treatments. There are particular classifications of euthanasia as practiced: passive euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide and active voluntary, involuntary or non-voluntary euthanasia.

Passive euthanasia is mere withdrawal or withholding of life-support mechanisms or other forms of medical treatment (Allen, Chavez, DeSimone, Howard, Johnson, LaPierre, Montero, & Sanders, 2006). This form of euthanasia is therefore simply an omission of actions prolonging artificial life or alleviating experienced pain. Whereas in physician-assisted suicide, the medical practitioner provides the medication or treatment necessary for the termination of the patient’s life but it is the patient him or herself who carries out the act (Allen et al. , 2006). These two types therefore pertain to the actor of the chosen intervention.

It also deals with an omission or the active performance of some required deed. The two types imply the state of voluntariness of the patient or disabled person. The aspect of voluntariness is the second categorization mentioned above. In active voluntary euthanasia the physician has the explicit consent of the patient and as a result introduces a lethal dose of medication to the patient’s biological system (Allen et al. , 2006). This is different therefore from physician-assisted suicide as the executor of the extinguishing act is the physician and not the client.

It should be noted however that the most crucial aspect of this type of euthanasia is the explicitly given consent of the patient. This differentiates active voluntary euthanasia from involuntary euthanasia. In the latter type the consent of the patient is not explicitly given (Allen et al. , 2006). Aside from the absence of informed consent however, involuntary euthanasia is like active voluntary euthanasia since it involves the active administration of the physician of some lethal medication or treatment. Finally, there is the instance of non-voluntary euthanasia.

This last type is less common and is prohibited in several countries. Non-voluntary euthanasia is concerned with the termination of the life of a non-willing individual, either one who has no wish to die or one who is not capable of understanding the nature and consequences of the actions directed at him (Allen et al. , 2006). The former scenario may be observed in the case of felons or criminals sentenced with the death penalty. The latter scenario applies to the case of mentally incompetent individuals not capable of comprehension of the occurring events and therefore incapable of giving informed consent or valid permission.