Washington Law Review


To avoid the possibility of confusion, it is necessary to distinguish voluntary euthanasia from other similar, but not necessarily related situations. By voluntary euthanasia I refer to one specific situation, and to no other. Any definition of the principle of voluntary euthanasia must lay emphasis on the word "voluntary" as it specifically applies to the right of an adult person who is in command of his faculties to have his life ended by a physician, pursuant to his own intelligent request, under specific conditions prescribed by law, and by painless means. Thus, voluntary euthanasia involves at least two willing persons—a doctor and a patient. Considered solely from the perspective of its recipient, apart from its medical assistance, voluntary euthanasia is most akin to suicide. Hence, with medical assistance rendered in accordance with law, the term simply refers to legally-assisted suicide. But voluntary euthanasia is not subject to whim, nor indulged whenever a person may decide he would like it; rather, it is carefully controlled by statute and allowed only under rigorously defined circumstances. Furthermore, voluntary euthanasia is "voluntary" on the part of the doctor as well as the patient. There is no requirement that a doctor must administer euthanasia to a patient. Instead, voluntary euthanasia provides a way for legalizing free choice-a liberty, and it requires a willing patient and a willing doctor, acting under law. Nothing short of that will do.

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