Euthanasia Law and Legal Definition

Euthanasia is the act of mercifully and painlessly ending a person or animal's life. It may involve withdrawal of life support systems or extraordinary medical care, rather than an affirmative action. In the U.S., committing suicide or attempting to commit suicide is no longer a criminal offense. However, helping another person commit suicide is almost always a criminal act. Living wills and Do Not Resuscitate orders are legal instruments that make a patient's treatment decisions known ahead of time; allowing a patient to die based on such decisions is never considered euthanasia. Advocates of euthanasia generally insist that euthanasia should be voluntary, based upon informed consent, and that it should only be used in cases of terminal illness that cause unbearable suffering. Its opponents challenge it on various ethical grounds.