Types of euthanasia

Different types of euthanasia

There are various types of euthanasia:

  • Active euthanasia - something is done to a person to make them die more quickly, eg giving drugs with the intention of bringing about death.
  • Passive euthanasia - any form of treatment that might extend a person's life is withdrawn, eg a life support machine is turned off, or a feeding tube is removed. This is legally allowed in the UK, and so would not be called euthanasia.
  • Voluntary euthanasia - a person asks for their own life to be ended.
  • Non-voluntary euthanasia - a person cannot make a decision about euthanasia or cannot make their wishes known, and so someone else, eg a doctor or a family member, decides that it would be in the person's best interest if their life was ended. For example, if the person is in a coma.
  • Involuntary euthanasia - a person wants to live, but someone else, eg a doctor or a family member, decides that it would be in the person's best interest if their life was ended. For example, if a person has had an accident that will lead to imminent and painful death, a decision might be made to end their life even if the person wanted to live.
  • Assisted suicide - deliberately assisting or encouraging another person to end their own life.

What are the alternatives to euthanasia?

There are two main alternatives to euthanasia:

  • Hospice - this is where specialist medical staff look after the terminally ill. Palliative drugs are used to help ensure that the person does not suffer any more pain than is absolutely necessary. Staff are able to talk with patients about death and dying and any fears they may have. They are also available to support the family of the dying person.
  • Refusing treatment - in the UK all adults have the right to refuse treatment as long as they have the capacity to understand the situation they are in and to make an informed decision.