Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, in 400 BC claimed that he will not suggest or give any deadly medicine to anyone. From that time onward many things have changed, including the views about euthanasia. Eu in Greek means God and thanatos is death, and thus euthanasia got its name.
The term euthanasia is used to describe termination of someone’s life without any pain. This merciful killing or assisted suicide, as this is also well known, is permitted is some countries but forbidden in other. In Sweden, Norway, Belgium and Albania euthanasia is legal if the patient is suffering from incurable diseases and chronic pain, while in the United States, the person cannot be euthanized for any reason and under any circumstances, since this is illegal procedure.
Historic Overview of Euthanasia
Ancient Greeks and Romans thought that the person who had no interest in living should not be kept alive and therefore allowed voluntary euthanasia. However, Hippocrates had different ideas, opposing this procedure in his Oath. All around the globe, doctors still believe in this principle and protect their patients taking Hippocrates Oath at the beginning of their careers.
In 14th century England it was illegal to commit suicide but also to help someone kill himself/herself. However, the first low against this procedure, the anti-euthanasia law was passed in 1828 in New York, after many debates about this topic.
At that time euthanasia was classified into two types. If someone who was terminally ill was euthanized giving the consent, it was considered to be voluntary euthanasia. Involuntary euthanasia, on the other hand, was the term used to describe the termination of a life of terminally ill patients without their prior consent.
Euthanasia in Modern Days
Involuntary killing of the diseased, disabled or handicapped people was practiced by some German doctors in gas chambers before and during the WWII (World War II). This way, about 300.000 people, mostly Germans, were killed because of some handicap or mental problem, but Nazi doctors used the same method to eliminate Jews, gypsies, Russians and all others they captured.
First organizations for legalization of euthanasia were established in 1930s, in London and later in the United States. At the moment, these organizations have more than 60.000 members but the debate about this issue is still ongoing.
Several doctors were prosecuted for assisted suicide. The latest case happened in 1999, when Dr. Kevorkian helped his final stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patient to end his life. For this decision, Dr. Kevorkian spent 8 years imprisoned.