Euthanasia is the deliberate killing of a person, by act or omission, for compassionate reasons. Those advocating for euthanasia are essentially asking for an exception to the law against homicide.
Assisted suicide is similar in nature except that the person is killing themselves after receiving a lethal prescription from a doctor.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide should not be confused with the cessation of useless treatment or the failure to commence treatment that would be a hindrance to patient comfort or offer no useful purpose. It is also not the use of drugs with the intention of relieving severe pain. See our dedicated brochure "Euthanasia: commonly asked questions ..." for further details.
The promise of choice
Euthanasia is promoted from the viewpoint of a person being in control through to the very end of your life. This 'right to choose' would make it your decision to go at the timing of your choice, and retaining your dignity to the very end. This notion of 'choice' is an illusion when it comes to euthanasia in practice. If you wish to end your life, you would have to ask your doctor for this. The choice of whether the euthanasia is performed or not is actually that of the doctor as the request from the patient can either be honoured or denied. In the end, the patient still does not have choice when it comes to euthanasia.
Worse, patients who wish to continue living can still be euthanased by doctors who consider their life to be 'not worth living.' This is currently the practice in the Netherlands where euthanasia was legalised in 2002 on the basis that doctors were doing it anyway and therefore it needed to be controlled. Presently, one in five cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands occur without the patient’s consent. Again, the notion of 'choice' is an illusion.
The safeguards that won't save you
Euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation is often framed so as to only be available to a few ‘hard cases’. These clauses are usually (and euphemistically) referred to as ‘safeguards’. But safeguards don’t work in practice — they’re an illusion.
As US lawyer and commentator, Wesley Smith points out, ‘safeguards’ are only there to make legislators (and everyone else) feel a little easier about legislating for state-sanctioned killing.
In Oregon, USA, you must be a resident in order to be eligible for euthanasia. This will be to prevent 'suicide tourism' from other states where euthanasia is not legal. Euthanasia activists gladly inform people that you only need to rent somewhere and have your first utility bill to meet the requirements of proof of residency ... something that can be achieved in a week or two.
The slippery slope
When pushing for the legalisation of euthanasia, activists make an emotional argument based on a clearly exceptional case of end-of-life suffering. Once legalised, however, the scope of availability can be gradually extended based on the next worst scenario.
In the Netherlands they legislated for euthanasia in 2002 with safeguards. These safeguards are almost routinely ignored with euthanasia now tolerated for newborns with a disability, for troubled teenagers, for Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers (who cannot consent) and for those who simply feel that they’ve completed their lives and are now 'tired of life.' This solution of 'last resort' is now a common occurrence.
Even euthanasia activists are deeply divided
Pro-euthanasia activists are sharply divided into two camps. The first group seeks to achieve access to euthanasia by changes to the law. They suppress knowledge of their how-to-die classes so that they are not associated with what they perceive as the shortcomings of the second group. They do this as a means to achieve credibility (and avoid the risk of association with radicals) so that politicians will be prepared to deal with them.
The second group are those that have given up (or won't bother) with legislation and instead go down the path of a technological solution. They are typically spearheaded by figureheads such as Dr Philip Nitschke who agreed in October 2015 to have 26 conditions attached to his medical registration in a last minute plea bargain to avoid a court case with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. These conditions included a ban on giving advice on methods of committing suicide. Nitschke has since let his medical registration lapse. Nitschke runs an assisted suicide advocacy group and publishes information on methods of 'self deliverance.'