The Oxford Dictionary describes it as “the act of causing somebody to die gently and without pain, especially when they are suffering from a painful, incurable disease.”
Euthanasia proper does not in essence include the removal of a person from a life support system although some call this “passive euthanasia”, in contrast to “active euthanasia”. Perhaps it is less confusing to confine the term primarily to acts which hasten the death of someone who would otherwise still live. Even so, we note that much secular ethical discussion focuses on whether there is a morally significant distinction between causing death (active euthanasia) and allowing death to happen (passive euthanasia).
Euthanasia can be voluntary, where a person specifically asks for help in ending their life. There are cases, where the person is unable to communicate whether they wish to die or not, for example when the person is in a persistent vegetative state, or in the case of young children. These cases are usually called “non-voluntary euthanasia”. “Involuntary euthanasia” on the other hand is where the patient is killed against their will and in most cases this would be considered murder or manslaughter.
For the Christian who operates under divine principle and moral law, starting with God and His word, the questions are theological:
- How does God see this?
- What does He want?
- What biblical principles are there to guide us in this matter? How can I obey my Lord and His word?
- Can it ever be right to usurp God’s role in the giving and taking of life?