Euthanasia comes from Greek, meaning "good death." Today, it is a widely debated practice of intentionally ending a person's life who is suffering from a terminal or incurable illness. If the patient is on life support, or dependent on any such type of extraordinary means for survival (e.g., intravenous feeding, artificial kidney machines etc.) and these means and withheld or withdrawn, this is known as negative euthanasia. Positive euthanasia involves actions or steps taken to terminate the patient's life, such as lethal injection. Another category, known as passive euthanasia is when treatment is withheld from the patient, such as medication or surgery, or the administering of high doses of pain medication which may be lethal to the patient. Passive euthanasia is a common practice among hospitals and physicians in the U.S by the end of the 20th century; however, whether or not it should be considered as actual euthanasia has been debated. This is because the physicians may be lacking in intentionality to actually terminate the patient's life when undergoing these practices - if they are simply withdrawing treatment that has shown to be ineffective, or denying surgery when the patient has too slim a chance of survival, they are simply following medical guidelines.
Positive euthanasia is for the most part illegal in the U.S. but physicians may lawfully refuse to prolong life when there is extreme suffering. This practice is legalized in Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands.
This practice receives the most opposition on religious grounds. It seems to oppose the very basic law that all religions share – do not kill. The physician also seems to be “playing God,” making a decision that most believe only God should have the right to. So Is Euthanasia ethical? Does it step over the fine line between helping someone who is incapable themselves of committing suicide and actually committing an act of murder, as one of the titles that it is commonly known as, “mercy killings” suggests? That is a subject that will remain one of the most controversial under medical ethics.