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Euthanasia also mercy killing practice of ending a life so as to release an individual from an incurable disease or intolerable suffering The term is sometimes used generally to refer to an easy or painless death Voluntary euthanasia involves a request by the dying patient or that persons legal representative Passive or negative euthanasia involves not doing something to prevent death--that is allowing someone to die active or positive euthanasia involves taking deliberate action to cause a death Euthanasia has been accepted both legally and morally in various forms in many societies In ancient Greece and Rome it was permissible in some situations to help others die With the rise of organized religion euthanasia became morally and ethically abhorrent Christianity Judaism and Islam all hold human life sacred and condemn euthanasia in any form Following traditional religious principles Western laws have generally considered the act of helping someone to die a form of homicide subject to legal sanctions Even a passive withholding of help to prevent death has frequently been severely punished Euthanasia however occurs secretly in all societies including those in which it is held to be immoral and illegal The Ethics of Euthanasia Organizations supporting the legalization of voluntary euthanasia were established in Great Britain in 1935 and in the United States in 1938 They have gained some public support but so far they have been unable to achieve their goal in either nation In the last few decades Western laws against passive and voluntary euthanasia have slowly been eased although serious moral and legal questions still exist Critics point to the so-called euthanasia committees in Nazi Germany that were empowered to condemn and execute anyone found to be a burden to the state This instance of abuse of the power of life and death has long served as a warning to some against allowing the practice of euthanasia The proeuthanasia or right to die movement has received considerable encouragement by the passage
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