The death of euthanasia

Mar 29, 2010

It is time to discard the word euthanasia because it mixes ideas and values that confuses the debate about dying, states an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

"The end of life debate seems particularly burdened by confusion over the term 'euthanasia'," writes Dr. Ken Flegel, Senior Associate Editor and Dr. Paul Hébert, Editor-in-Chief, . "Both sides use it to further their ideological views: one side says murder, the other mercy; the right to live versus the right to die with dignity; selfishness versus compassion."

The term, euthanasia, is from the Greek and was coined in 1646. It was intended to mean a gentle and easy death. A nuance was introduced, by 1742, referring to the means of bringing about such a death and, in 1859, to the action of inducing such a death. Modern dictionaries have a variety of definitions, but they all imply the same meaning, an intentional action to bring about death in someone who is suffering.

"Euthanasia's broad meaning has inadvertently enveloped a set of actions that also involve the relief of symptoms in dying people," write the authors. "For example giving enough narcotic to relieve pain in cancer patients and adding enough sedation to enable comfort and minimize agitation is appropriate and compassionate care, even when the amounts required increase the probability of death. It can be argued that, in such circumstances, death becomes an acceptable side-effect of effective palliation. But, in our view, it is not euthanasia."

Physicians can help by not using "" to refer to actions taken to assist dying patients and instead, can clearly name and define each action as well as its possible repercussions.

"As physicians, we should promote honest debate; assist in defining actions and terms; avoid further polarizing this important debate with our own values and ideologies, and help educate the public to increase engagement in this very important societal issue, "conclude the authors. "Then 'euthanasia' can experience its own gentle ."

Explore further: Alabama man claims penis mistakenly amputated

More information: www.cmaj.ca/cgi/doi/10.1503/cmaj.100338

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using morphine to hasten death is a myth, says doctor

Mar 02, 2007

Using morphine to end a person's life is a myth, argues a senior doctor in a letter to this week's BMJ. It follows the case of Kelly Taylor, a terminally ill woman who went to court earlier this month for the right to be ...

Researchers update risk-of-death charts

Jun 10, 2008

Researchers have updated charts that show an American's risk of dying from a given cause over the next ten years, based on age, sex, and smoking status. The charts will be published online June 10 in the Journal of the Na ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jsovine
1 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2010
Newspeak anyone? George Orwell is turning in his grave.

http://en.wikiped...Newspeak
frajo
1 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2010
Newspeak anyone?
The word "euthanasia" has been burnt by the German Nazis who used it to describe their killing of handicapped people. Therefore this word has lost its original Greek "innocence".
jsovine
3 / 5 (2) Mar 30, 2010
What's lost its innocence is not the word, but our governments'. If the new word is anything less than "sympathy killing" it will be wrong. If someone legitimately requests death on their own terms, fine; they wouldn't have cared what on God's green earth we called it anyhow. It's for those who need to be persuaded into allowing law to be tampered with, who are the ones who need to stay alert in these matters in the first place.

Perhaps words pertaining to death are gruesome for a reason.
frajo
not rated yet Mar 31, 2010
Simonsez, jsovine, henryjfry: Are you Nazi sympathizers, don't you understand Greek or what else made you rate my comment as "1"? I'd really like to understand you.
jsovine
not rated yet Apr 01, 2010
What I said had nothing to do with the Greek, which wouldn't have mattered anyway, considering we speak english and most english-speaking persons arent likely to know or care about what something meant before it was adopted into their current language. Words have bad reputations for a reason, like I said above, those who are going to request euthanasia aren't going to care if it was named something even obviously gruesome, they want someone to kill them enough to seek medical assistance for crying out loud. Please actually read my post before quickly jumping to calling people Nazi sympathizers. They also happened to pervert quite a few other things as well, like acting under the guise of an incredibly heretical version of "Christianity". Also, I didn't vote you down, you don't have to post comments to vote ya'know.
jsovine
not rated yet Apr 01, 2010
Actually, you're right, I did. Sorry 'bout that.