A physician can help people die in two ways, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. When arguing against either euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, it is beneficial to break these general groups into their composite forms. Euthanasia is defined as the intentional termination of a human life by a physician1. Euthanasia can be subdivided into active and passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia, also called mercy killings, is said to have occurred when the physician has actively done something to bring about the death of the patient. An example of this would be a physician who administers a lethal dosage of a medicine causing the patient to die. Passive euthanasia occurs when the death of a patient occurs from the doctor withholding or withdrawing treatment. An example of this is when a physician removes a feeding tube, and the patient dies sooner because of this. Physician-assisted suicide is said to have occurred when a physician aids an individual in his or her attempts at suicide2. This essay ignores the possibility of a physician performing euthanasia without the patient's written or verbal consent, mainly because this permutation is too much akin to murder for it to be seen as moral in anyway.
Before talking about the morality of these issues, we must first understand why they even occur in our society. Euthanasia, by virtue of being offered only to terminally ill patients, is meant to offer a quick and, by comparison, painless death to people who would have otherwise had to face the hardships of a prolonged death. In essence the motive for euthanasia is purely humanitarian. Assisted suicide is intended to provide a quick and painless death to individuals who have chosen to kill themselves. This main difference between the two lies in the words by comparison. In the case of euthanasia the clients would have died anyway and were already in pain. In the case of suicide the clients are simply depressed and unhappy with the way life is taking its course, but they are not necessarily in life-threatening danger.