Euthanasia is a broad term that captures several end of life scenarios, from  assisted suicide to involuntary euthanasia. Since the Holocaust, the word has carried an overwhelmingly negative connotation to most people. Thus, many people still view euthanasia with deep concern, for its implications with regard to the value of human life and the potential for abuse. The disability rights community, in particular, overwhelmingly objects to any advancement toward the legalization and acceptance of euthanasia, which they view as a technique to free society of disabled people and as an expression of continued discrimination against the disabled.

Some on the right equate abortion and euthanasia or put it in the same category - as things that are potentially ‘done’ to other victims.  In an attempt to underscore scenarios where an individual seeks to end their life as an exercise in personal autonomy, the term Right to Die has also come into use.    

The controversy over euthanasia came into strong public consciousness with the fight over removing life support for Terri Schiavo (who died in 2005) where her husband’s efforts to end her life (she was in what her doctors called a persistent vegetative state) were fought by her parents for seven years, with politicians and pro-life advocates weighing in to try to stop what her husband believed was carrying out her wishes.

This issue has become increasingly salient to people as medical technology has permitted the maintenance of what appear to be minimal states of “life” - that can end up having questionable meaning and potentially devastating financial costs for those left behind. Increasingly people are thus trying to avoid this end for themselves by health care directives that order the withdrawal of life support in certain situations.   This is the “death with dignity” idea.  In opposition are those who maintain that the death comes at God’s direction and humans should attempt to maintain life and take no step to hasten its arrival.  

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Bishop Desmond Tutu recently made a public call for the right to assisted death



Mary Jacksteit, Erika Decaster

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