Euthanasia (also known as mercy killing) is the act or practice of painlessly putting to death persons suffering from painful or incurable disease or incapacitating physical disorder. The question about weather this is morally right or wrong has posed a major ethical dilemma on the world today.

The advance of medical technology is bringing a steadily growing majority of deaths into hospitals where life, of a sort, may be prolonged for a long time. Someone has to decide what nature used to decide for us. That decision is no longer taken privately in a small family group but amidst a constantly changing crowd of doctors, nurses, patients and technicians.

Because there is no specific provision for Euthanasia in most systems, it is considered suicide, if done by the patient, or murder, if done by the doctor. A physician may lawfully decide not to prolong the life of some one who is in extreme pain and suffering. They may administer drugs to relieve pain, even though the doctor knows this may shorted the life of the patient. In several European countries, there were there were special provisions in their criminal codes for lenient sentencing and consideration of extenuating circumstances in prosecutions for euthanasia.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a doctor who openly supports euthanasia has been in and out of court and jail for being held responsible for the deaths of over 50 people that were in his care at the time of death. His ?suicide machine? has helped many end their lives. Although no one thinks that Kevorkian was thought of as a murderer by the patients, it raises many ethical questions about whether it should be decided by doctor or patient when it is time to die.

The opinion that euthanasia is morally permissible dates back to Socrates, Plato and the Stoics. It is rejected in traditional Christian beliefs, mainly because it is thought to come within the prohibition of murder in the Sixth Commandment. The organized movement to for legislation commenced in England in 1935 when C. Killick Millard founded the Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation Society. The society's bill was defeated in the House Of Lords in 1950. In the United States, the Euthanasia Society was founded in 1938.

The medical professionals, family members and the patients face the decision of when a terminally ill person should die. The Supreme Court has ruled that any person deemed competent may refuse medical treatment or nutrition.

Ten thousand people in the US alone are in a permanent vegetative state and therefore can not express their own interests and opinions in the matter of their own life. In cases such as this, the decision is left to the family. When this happens, other factors are brought into the decision, such as how much stress the family is under, and most of all, the cost to keep a person on life support that could stay on for an extended amount of time. The cost for this is very high, often too much for the family. These and many other decisions can waiver the families decision and over ride the interest of the patient involved. (Hubert,89)

The potential of modern medical practice to prolong life through technological means has provoked the question of what must be done by the physician and the family in cases of extreme physical or emotional suffering, especially if the patient is incapable of choice. Passively doing nothing to prolong life or withdrawing life support measures has resulted in criminal charges being brought against physicians; on the other hand, the families of comatose and apparently terminal patients have set up legal action against the medical establishment to make them stop using extraordinary life support.

Euthanasia in the news
I recently found an article from a newspaper posted on the Internet about a woman trying to remove a tube from her husbands' mouth.

Virginia News Summary
Friday, September 25, 1998

Judge To Hear Coma Case
(MANASSAS) -- A state judge will hear arguments this afternoon on a woman's effort to remove a feeding tube keeping her comatose husband alive. Michelle Finn says her husband, Hugh... a former T-V anchorman in Kentucky... once told her he would never want to be kept alive in that condition. However, Hugh Finn's family has challenged his wife's decision to withdraw life support