Euthanasia debate: Key terms you need to know

The term 'euthanasia' is loosely described to define the 'painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable disease'. Photograph:( Others )

WION Web Team Delhi, India Mar 09, 2018, 07.37 AM (IST)

In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court today approved passive euthanasia, recognising a terminally ill patient's right to 'die with dignity'. With apex court's move, it gets important to throw light on other terms that most of us may come across in association with euthanasia. 

The term 'euthanasia' is loosely described to define the 'painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or an irreversible coma'. It further gets classified into active and passive euthanasia

The former is where a "deliberate action" is taken to end a patient's life to save them from further suffering. Passive euthanasia, on the other hand, is where a "deliberate disconnection of life-support equipment", or cessation of any life-sustaining medical procedure is carried out. Passive euthanasia facilitates the natural death of a patient. 

Besides these two terms, there are several others technical jargons associated with a person's life, health and necessitated demise, here's simplifying some of them:

1. Active voluntary and involuntary euthanasia

Both involve injecting the patient with a lethal, life-ending drug; the former involves patient's requests while the latter doesn't. 

2. Persistent vegetative state

A state where a person is declared brain-damaged, suffers an irrecoverable state of coma and is offered a permanent life support. A person is often described as a "vegetable" when in a state of coma, which may get cured.

3. Palliative care

Wherein a person is not treated to get cured but to relieve the pain and other discomfort associated with the disease. A person on palliative care is terminally ill --  without any cure. 

4. Terminal illness

A medical condition that cannot be treated.

5. Living will

A directive by a terminally ill person stating when to not connect or disconnect life-supporting equipment if the process delays the inevitable death making it more painful.

6. Mercy killing 

Often interchangeably used for euthanasia but not limited to such cases. The act describes a request to end a life with a belief that it is the ultimate and the only compassionate choice.