In our society, euthanasia is most often described as physician-assisted suicide. However, according to the International Task Force on Euthanasia, “Euthanasia has only occurred if a third party performs the act that intentionally causes a patient’s death. [ ] If the person who dies performs the last act [his or herself], assisted suicide has taken place” (Hamlon). Within the last century euthanasia has become a widely debated issue within the United States. One reason a consensus cannot be formed is that no person or group can clearly define the practice of euthanasia. From the most conservative conservatives to the most liberal liberals, euthanasia has been described as everything from genocide to a miracle. State courts cannot collectively rule on the legal matters of the issue because they cannot come to an accord on the definition of the practice, and what, if anything, it should legally, and/or constitutionally entail. Religious officials cannot come together on the issue because although suicide is viewed as a serious sin, representatives cannot decide whether or not euthanasia is actually suicide. This leads to the question that is brewing in the minds of millions of Americans: What is euthanasia?.
“Should physicians be permitted to offer death among their therapeutic options? Should they be licensed to kill- not inadvertently or negligently but willfully, openly and compassionately?” (Schneiderman 581). Lawrence Schneiderman begins his essay, The Ethics of Euthanasia, with this statement as to define the practice of euthanasia. When did death become a willful, open, and compassionate act? At the same time, Webster’s dictionary defines euthanasia as “the painless death.” Isn’t death welcomed, and accepted when it is painless, carefree, and easy-going? These two definitions of euthanasia are vastly different; therefore they can be interpreted just as differently. How can the American public decide whether or not euthanasia is legally, morally, and/or constitutionally right when they can decide neither on the definition of the word nor the definition of the practice? .