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Passive euthanasia can be described as death by omission of care. An individual may be suffering an illness where surgical intervention may prolong or save their life, and instead of going through with the treatment, that patient decides to omit the option, and allow nature to take it course. Passive euthanasia is also a term used to describe when a life is being sustained by medical equipment, and the choice is made to withdraw those treatment modalities, also allowing nature to take its course (“Ethics – Euthanasia: Forms of euthanasia,” 2014). Active euthanasia can be described as deliberately causing the death of an individual through an action. An example of this type of euthanasia could be giving a lethal dose of narcotic medicines to an individual. Although the hand who gave this lethal dose did not necessarily kill the individual, their intention in providing the medicine was to initiate death (“Ethics – Euthanasia: Forms of euthanasia,” 2014).

In active euthanasia, a physician’s actions are intended to cause death, in order to reduce a patients, pain and suffering. In passive euthanasia, a physician will allow the patient to die, without any willful interventions (Srivastava, 2014). After reading and learning about active and passive euthanasia I feel either way the act is to deliberately cause death for a patient, on humanitarian grounds, therefore neither one is crueler nor more unethical than the other. Passively removing a patient from life support to allow them to die is no better or worse than providing a lethal injection to end a patient’s life and rid them of their pain and suffering.

Interestingly enough, active euthanasia is illegal across the United States, with the exception of Colorado, Oregon, Hawaii, Washington, Vermont, Maine, New Jersey, California, the District of Columbia, one county in New Mexico which allows assisted suicide, and Montana where there is no governmental action on the assist of suicide (de facto legal). Passive euthanasia is legal in all USA jurisdictions. The difference in legislation comes down to passive euthanasia does not involve an act of killing someone, rather letting someone die on its own naturally (Srivastava, 2014).


Ethics – Euthanasia: Forms of euthanasia. (2014). Retrieved from

Srivastava, V. (2014, July). Euthanasia: a regional perspective. Retrieved from

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