Every year two million people die in North America. Chronic illnesses, such as cancer or heart disease, account for two of every three deaths. Approximately seventy percent of those suffering from a chronic illness make a decision to forgo life-sustaining treatment (Choice in Dying). The ongoing debate concerning this issue remains whether patients should have the opportunity to implement euthanasia.
Euthanasia originated from the Greek work meaning “good death.” It is the intentional termination of life by another at the explicit request of the person who dies (Religious Tolerance). Euthanasia became a world renowned movement launched by a celebrated 1973 case of a doctor who helped her mother die and then was acquitted of criminal charges (Branegan 31). Since then it has been praised and protested all around the world. When a person commits an act of euthanasia, they bring about the death of another person because they believe that their existence is so bad that they would be better off dead. However, euthanasia has many different meanings, which tends to create confusion. Passive euthanasia refers to removing some form of life support, which allows nature to take its course. Forms of life support include removing life support machines, stopping medical procedures and medications, stopping food and water, or not delivering cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Active euthanasia refers to causing the death of a person through a direct action, in response to a request from the person. Physician-assisted suicide refers to a request physician supplying information or the means of committing suicide to a person, so that they can end their own life. Involuntary euthanasia refers to the killing of a person in opposition of their wishes. This is basically a form of murder (Religious Tolerance 2-3).
Ultimately, euthanasia is a question of choice, empowering people to have control over their own bodies. But the choice is only to be given to an elite group of terminally ill patients. Advocates of voluntary euthanasia contend that a person should be allowed or assisted in their death, if a person is:
 Suffering from a terminal illness
 Unlikely to benefit from the discovery of a cure
 Suffering from intolerable pain as a result of the illness
 Has an enduring and rational wish to die
 Unable to commit suicide without assistance
(Overberg) Modern technological advances, such as respirators and kidney machines, have made it possible to sustain a patient’s life for long periods of time. Proponents of euthanasia agree that prolonging life in this manner may cause great suffering to the patient and their family. As a result, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1985 completed the Uniform Rights of the Terminally Ill Act. This act entitles patients the choice to refuse life support (Baird 167-171). It is a subtle form of euthanasia. The pro euthanasia movement has received considerable encouragement by the passing of laws in 47 states that allow legally competent individuals to make living wills. These living wills empower and instruct doctors to withhold life support. This is another subtle form of euthanasia (Baird 142-145). In America, where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are some of our basic freedoms, it would seem that euthanasia would not be an issue. The main argument of those in favor of euthanasia insists that people should have the right to die with dignity. They should be able to die with all their senses intact, and be able to die free of insufferable pain. Others also argue that the costs incurred for the care of comatose patients on life support, prolongs death and becomes quite expensive.
Opponents of euthanasia argue that verification of the patient’s true wishes is difficult in most cases. They believe that physicians and patients should not be given the freedom to play God and decide when their lives should end. It is also argued that patients who want to die are neither in a healthy psychological state of mind. Groups in opposition of euthanasia feel that if it were to become a publicly accepted option to the terminally ill, then it may become abused. Perhaps the strongest belief that euthanasia is wrong comes from those who follow the words of the Bible and believe that every aspect of life belongs to God. The Old Testament records an incident involving King Saul of