Euthanasia

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Euthanasia is the deliberate termination of the life of a disabled or terminally ill person, for instance in order to end unbearable suffering. Under Anglo-American law all forms of euthanasia are illegal. Most religious leaders see euthanasia as murder.

Most libertarians, many liberals and (particularly in Europe) some conservatives support legalization in some circumstances of voluntary euthanasia, i.e. the termination of a dying patient's life upon his/her own explicit request. Voluntary euthanasia has been legalized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and the US state of Oregon. Legalized euthanasia has limitations on when it may be used, such as the approval of a number of physicians when a terminally ill patient suffers from excruciating pain. Opponents of euthanasia maintain that this rarely constitutes an obstacle, as in practice all it requires is a few physicians to authorize it, and that legalization thus violates the sanctity of human life. They also fear legalization could be a slippery slope, leading to the planned termination of all life that is "unworthy", as in the Nazis' program to kill the mentally and physically handicapped. Proponents of legalized voluntary euthanasia, on the other hand, feel that a complete ban would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of some terminally ill patients and thus contravene the teachings of the Gospels. They believe that the rule of law in democratic societies would prevent excesses such as the Nazi euthanasia program.

The widely reported withdrawal of a feeding tube from the disabled and comatose Terri Schiavo, with a court order prohibiting anyone from bringing her water, is an example of euthanasia.