Euthanasia -Pros and Cons of Mercy Killing


Euthanasia comes from the Greek language and means „good death“. Another word for euthanasia is “mercy killing”. It is the end of an ill person’s life in a painless way.

In the past years there has been much discussion about euthanasia all over the world. In some countries, like Switzerland, Belgium or the Netherlands certain types of euthanasia are legal. In other countries where euthanasia is illegal courts do not punish people who practice it.


There are two main types of euthanasia.

  • Active euthanasia – A doctor or a nurse gives an ill patient medicine that will kill them.
  • Passive euthanasia – A patient does not get the medicine or treatment that they need in order to stay alive.

In some cases life supporting machines are turned off and patients die. Sometimes it is decided not to give patients food any more. In other cases antibiotics, chemotherapy or giving person morphine may lead to their death.

The main problem is who decides if and when euthanasia should be carried out. Sometimes the relatives of an incurably ill person make the decision, based on what they think the patient wants. In other cases a patient may have written down a will that says they want to have machines turned off if there is no hope.

Euthanasia has become a much-discussed issue today because medicine has become much better. People live longer and doctors can sometimes keep people alive for a long time with the help of machines.

Euthanasia groups appeared for the first time in England and America in the early 20 th century. During the Second World War the Nazis in Germany had their own euthanasia program. They let people die who were not worthy and healthy enough to survive, especially children and older people. Many groups that promote the right to die have emerged in the second part of the 20 th century.

In the recent case of Terri Schiavo, a woman from Florida who suffered from brain damage and had been in a kind of coma since 1990, her husband succeeded in getting her feeding tube removed. The parents fought a legal battle in court to make the doctors put the tube back in again but they lost. In 2005 Schiavo died, two weeks after the feeding tube had been removed.


Reasons for Euthanasia

  • Everyone has a right to decide when their life should end.
  • If the quality of life has become so bad, a person may feel too much physical or emotional pain.
  • Today’s hospitals are overcrowded and have too many patients. Some argue that they should let those die that do not have a chance of living on. In that way there could be more room for patients with diseases that can be cured.


Reasons against Euthanasia

  • Doctors have a problem with euthanasia because they have sworn an oath that does not allow them to take part in the killing of people.
  • Sometimes it is not clear if an ill person really wants to die. Euthanasia should only take place if someone really wants it or if they understand how ill they are.


Euthanasia and Religion

Many religions think that euthanasia is immoral. Some religions regard it as a type of murder.

  • The official Roman Catholic Church is against euthanasia and says it is a crime. Protestants, on the other side, take a more liberal view.
  • Hindus think that, even though helping a person end a painful life may be good, it interferes with the cycle of death and rebirth.
  • In Islam all forms of euthanasia are forbidden.
  • In Japan more than half of all Shintoists think that you should be allowed to help a person die if they ask for it.


Related Topics


Downloadable PDF Text- and Worksheets




  • antibiotics = drugs and medicine that are used to kill bacteria and cure infections
  • appear = to come up, start
  • argue = say
  • based on = depending on
  • battle = fight
  • brain damage = damage to a person’s brain caused by an accident or illness
  • case = situation
  • century = a hundred years
  • chemotherapy = treatment you get when you suffer from cancer
  • court = the place where a trial is held; there is a judge and a jury that decide if a person is guilty or not
  • cure = to make healthy
  • cycle = events that happen again and again, in the same order
  • emerge = appear , come up
  • emotional = relating to your feelings
  • especially = above all
  • even though = while
  • feeding tube = a thin pipe through which a patient gets food
  • forbid = not allow
  • illegal = not allowed
  • immoral = morally wrong; behavior that is not accepted by people
  • incurable = deadly
  • interfere = to get in the way of something
  • issue = topic , problem
  • legal = allowed in a country
  • legal = in court
  • life supporting = to help you survive
  • morphine = a powerful drug used to stop pain and make people calm down
  • oath = a formal promise
  • overcrowded = with too many people
  • painless = without pain
  • physical = related to the body
  • practice = carry out, perform
  • promote = to be for something
  • rebirth = to be born again
  • regard = look upon as
  • remove = take away
  • succeed in = to reach what you want
  • suffer = to feel pain
  • survive = to live on
  • swear-sworn = to promise officially
  • treatment = something that is done to help and cure an ill person
  • view = opinion
  • will = a document that you have written and says what you want
  • worthy = here: to deserve to stay alive