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Painless killing of a person who has a painful incurable disease or incapacitating disorder. Most legal systems consider it murder, though in many jurisdictions a physician may lawfully decide not to prolong the patient's life or may give drugs to relieve pain even if they shorten the patient's life. Associations promoting legal euthanasia exist in many countries. The legalization movement has gained ground with advancing medical technology, which has been used to prolong the lives of patients who are enduring extreme suffering or who are comatose or unable to communicate their wishes. Euthanasia was legalized in the Netherlands in 2001 and in Belgium in 2002. In 1997 Oregon became the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize physician-assisted suicide.
Variants of EUTHANASIA
euthanasia or mercy killing
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on euthanasia, visit Britannica.com.