Many people are in favor of the right of every human being to end their life when they consider that their physical or emotional health situations require it. However, it should be noted that it is a much more complex matter than is thought.
It is, therefore, about diverse and very personal situations in which the ethical and moral questions that intervene depend directly on the affected person. In some countries, for example, there are laws and regulations that accept the right of the person to die with dignity according to complex health situations and regulate the way to do it, through the establishment of certain steps and conditions.
There are also various denominations for this topic, assisted suicide, euthanasia, dignified death, palliative sedation and limitation of therapeutic effort, among others. All of them differ from each other, depending on the legislation that accepts and regulates them. The issue that concerns us in this article is to establish the difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia, two terms commonly used in relation to a person’s decision to end their life.
Below are the definitions of both terms and their most outstanding characteristics.
Assisted suicide is one in which a person is provided with the necessary means (information, doses, means, supplies or medications) to end their life, provided that the person has decided to do so without legal consequences for the person who assists him.
This situation is allowed in cases where the person faces terminal illnesses that cause excessive pain or suffering or considerable limitations. Generally, assisted suicide is the responsibility of health professionals (doctors and nurses) but in some cases, assisted suicide is allowed by people who have nothing to do with the health profession.
It is important to note that in assisted suicide it is the person who performs the procedure to end his life, therefore, the participation of the health professional or advisor is passive, that is, it is limited to providing the information, the means and the resources for the patient to do so.
Euthanasia is the procedure by which death is provided to a terminally ill patient to avoid agony and excessive suffering. Euthanasia is performed in a context in which the patient decides to end her life, since the disease she suffers cannot be cured and the suffering due to pain or functional limitations cannot be mitigated.
Euthanasia can be direct or active (when the death of the person is brought forward) and indirect or passive euthanasia (when treatments or food are stopped being administered to the patient). Euthanasia can be voluntary when the patient requests the procedure or involuntary when the patient is incapable of requesting the procedure and it is the relatives or guardians of the person who request it.
Taking into account the aforementioned, it can be seen that there are fundamental differences between the two concepts. The following table is presented below as a summary to establish the differences between assisted suicide and euthanasia :
|This is always voluntary.||It can be voluntary or involuntary depending on the patient’s condition.|
|The medical or advisory staff is a passive subject in the procedure.||The medical staff is an active subject in the procedure.|
|There are no legal penalties for the person providing the information and resources.||It can lead to sanctions for medical personnel, if it is shown that it was by the doctor’s will and not by the will of the patient or their relatives.|