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Euthanasia

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Euthanasia is the act of intentionally killing a patient by performing or withholding medical procedures. Euthanasia can be either active, e.g. administering a lethal injection, or passive, e.g. no longer feeding an unconscious patient. It can also be either voluntary, e.g. requested by the patient, or non-voluntary, e.g. where the patient is unconscious and a legally competent person makes the decision. Thus there are four types of euthanasia – active voluntary (AVE), passive voluntary (PVE), active non-voluntary (ANE) and passive non-voluntary (PNE). While Buddhism strongly upholds respect for life, it also recognizes that death is an integral and indivisible part of life and thus that death needs to be respected too. One way we can respect life is to accept when it has become so filled with pain and stripped of dignity that an individual or their loved ones may wish to bring it to a close. To respect death means to gracefully recognize when its time has come and allow it to take place according to nature. Thus from the Buddhist perspective, PVE and PNE would not be breaking the first Precept and in fact might even be an act of compassion.

Buddhism and Bioethics, Damien Keown, 1995.

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