Human Rights

An Introduction To Euthanasia

What Is Euthanasia?

The word Euthanasia comes from the Greek words “eu”(good) and “Thanatos”(death). It is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering.

Different countries have different euthanasia laws. The British House of Lords select committee on medical ethics defines euthanasia as a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life to relieve intractable suffering”.

Euthanasia is characterized in different ways: voluntary, non-voluntary, and involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is when a person wills to have their life ended and is legal in many countries. Non-voluntary euthanasia occurs when a patient’s consent is unavailable and is legal in some countries under certain limited conditions, in both passive and active forms. Involuntary euthanasia, which is done without asking for consent or against the patient’s will, is illegal in all countries and is usually considered murder.


Voluntary, involuntary, and non-voluntary euthanasia can be further divided into passive and active variants. Passive euthanasia entails the withholding of treatment necessary for the continuance of life. Active euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances or forces (such as administering a lethal injection) and is more controversial.


Historically, the euthanasia debate has tended to focus on several key concerns. Critics of euthanasia typically argue that killing is always wrong, and non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia violates patients’ rights. Proponents of euthanasia have presented some arguments, some of which are, a) that people have a right to self-determination, b)assisting a patient to die might be a better choice than requiring the patient to suffer, and c) permitting euthanasia will not necessarily lead to unacceptable consequences.

Some arguments presented by opponents of euthanasia are, a) not all deaths are painful, b) alternatives are available, and c) legalizing euthanasia will place society on a slippery slope, which will lead to unacceptable consequences.

Legality Of Euthanasia

The legality of euthanasia varies depending on the country. As of November 2021, Euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, and several states of Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, e.t.c. The debate over euthanasia is not a recent phenomenon. Over the years, public opinion, decisions of courts, and legal and medical approaches to the issue of euthanasia in Nigeria have been conflicting. The connection between the right to life and the right to die has been attempted in a few debates. Although it is widely accepted that murder is a crime under Nigerian law, a clearly defined stand has not been taken on euthanasia. The Nigerian populace views euthanasia as an unnecessary paradox, murder in disguise, a situation where the supposed healer becomes a killer.


Euthanasia seems to have raised ethical concerns in society. Some of the key issues include ethical, practical, and religious issues. It has raised significant controversies, as people are for and against it.


About Sandra Bello

Sandra Bello is a student of the Faculty of Law, Olabisi Onabanjo University. Sandra is a passionate and hardworking individual, who believes academic excellence can be attained. She is a Health writer and advocate. Sandra has an interest in Medical and Health Law