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Death with Dignity Glossary

Active Euthanasia
Active Euthanasia is the medical administration of a lethal agent to a patient in order to relieve intolerable and intractable suffering of the patient, resulting in death.

Advance Directive
An advance directive is a document in which a person makes provision for health care decisions, including naming a surrogate decision maker in the event the person is unable to do so.

Aid in Dying
Aid in Dying refers to the provision by a terminal patient’s physician for life ending medication, to be administered by the patient, so she/he may hasten death if the dying process causes unbearable suffering, usually under circumstances of terminal illness.

Assisted Suicide
Assisted Suicide is committed with the aid of another person, sometimes a physician. The term is often used interchangeably with physician-assisted suicide, which involves a doctor knowingly and intentionally providing a person with the knowledge or means, or both, required to commit suicide.

Autonomy
Autonomy refers to the exercise of self-determination and choice among alternatives, based on an individual’s values and beliefs.

Euthanasia
Euthanasia is translated literally as “good death,” and refers to the act of painlessly but deliberately causing the
death of another who is suffering from an incurable, painful disease or condition. It is commonly thought of as a
lethal injection and it is sometimes referred to as mercy killing.

Involuntary Euthanasia
Involuntary Euthanasia occurs when a patient’s death is hastened without the patient’s consent. While generally
viewed as murder, there are some instances in which the death may be viewed as a mercy killing.

Living Will
A living will is a limited type of advance directive, because decisions about life sustaining procedures are made
only in the event that the patient’s death is imminent despite the application of life sustaining procedures, or the
person is in a persistent vegetative state (permanent unconsciousness).

Non-Voluntary Euthanasia
Non-Voluntary Euthanasia occurs when a legal surrogate makes the decision on the patient’s behalf because the
patient is unconscious or otherwise mentally unable to make a meaningful choice between living and dying.

Palliative Care
This medical specialty is often associated with hospice: however, it can also be used independently and alongside
curative treatments. Palliative care is a comprehensive medical specialty focusing on quality of life services, available in every state, appropriate for anyone at any stage of life suffering with a debilitating illness, terminal or
not, and focuses on pain management and providing comfort.

Passive Euthanasia
This is generally understood as a patient’s death due to action not taken by a medical professional or layperson
that would normally keep the patient alive.

Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS)
PAS is defined as the introduction by a physician, acting upon the request of a patient, of medicine that causes
death, in order to end her/his unbearable suffering and intractable pain. All life sustaining treatment is discontinued.

Suicide
Suicide is generally defined as the act of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.

Withholding/Withdrawing Treatment
This refers to omitting or ending life sustaining treatments such as ventilators, feeding tubes, kidney dialysis or
medication that would otherwise prolong the patient’s life. This legal act may be upon the patient’s request, as the
result of an advance directive or based upon the American Society of Internal Medicine’s determination of futility.

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