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Euthanasia is the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit, and over the years it has been one of the favorite tools of those who think society is better off when we take active steps to kill the poor, the disabled, the elderly, or the “unwanted”. Today the debate over euthanasia most commonly revolves around the issue of physician-assisted suicide.

Euthanasia may be thought of in several different forms:

Voluntary euthanasia: This is what happens when the person who is killed has requested to be killed. Often these requests are made under severe depression or emotional distress – situations that could easily change with proper care and treatment.

Involuntary euthanasia: This occurs when a the person who is killed made an expressed wish to the contrary. There are many in the world today who argue that the government could save money by actively euthanizing the elderly, claiming that the “usefulness” of these persons does not justify their medical expenses.

Assisted suicide: Someone provides an individual with the information, guidance, and means to take his or her own life with the intention that they will be used for this purpose. When it is a doctor who helps another person to kill themselves it is called “physician assisted suicide.”

Euthanasia By Direct Action: Think of this as intentionally causing a person’s death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection.

Euthanasia By Omission: This is intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food and water.

Euthanasia opens dangerous doors because it is man playing God. Consider the story of the German family who requested to Adolf Hitler that their disabled son be “put to sleep”. This killing became the the catalyst for the Nazi euthanasia program, providing the rationale for a secret Nazi decree that led to “mercy killings” of at least 275,000 mentally and physically handicapped people. The first child died because hi sfamily wanted their son dead, but most of the other children who were subsequently euthanized were forcibly taken from their parents to be killed.

In instance after instance, once the taking of another person’s life is rationalized, even if it is voluntary, it leads to the euthanizing of those who do not want to be killed.

What’s the alternative to euthanasia and assisted suicide? First, it is confirming that every human life carries value regardless of how old, ugly, sick or unwanted others might judge another life to be. Second, a compassionate culture must elevate efforts for proper hospice care for the sick, provide pain management for those who are suffering, and engage in spiritual and emotional healing for those suffering from depression and anxiety over illness and loss.