Derived from two Greek words - 'eu' meaning good and 'thanatos' meaning death. Voluntary means that it is by the choice of the individual. Thus voluntary euthanasia means the choice of a good death, which is a broad concept that will mean different things for different people.
It will involve a variety of different actions, both active and passive, to achieve a 'good death'. Some of these actions, such as withdrawal of treatment and refusal of treatment, and the liberal use of drugs to relieve pain and suffering whilst at the same time hastening death, have achieved legal status; they have thus been removed from the debate, which now focuses on VE by direct lethal injection, and on physician assisted suicide.
A common definition of Voluntary Euthanasia (initiated and used by the Dutch) is "the intentional termination of life by somebody other than the person concerned, at the request of the person whose life is being ended." Such a definition allows VE to be described as killing, and because the intention of the 'somebody' is the termination of life, it is illegal in Victoria.
However such a definition is inadequate, since the intention of any act of VE is the relief of suffering, whilst acknowledging that hastening of death is a foreseen and intended consequence. Moreover the focus of the definition is on the person who is terminating life, rather than on the person who is requesting assistance, whose intentions are central.
For these reasons DWDV has developed a definition that encompasses the broader concept and actions of VE. It states that "Voluntary Euthanasia is an action taken by, or at the request of, a rational, informed and hopelessly ill person whose intention is to be relieved of their intolerable suffering by hastening their dying in a dignified manner."
Medically Assisted Suicide
A form of Voluntary Euthanasia where the action is taken by the hopelessly ill person themselves.
To hasten their death in a dignified manner requires, in most circumstances, advice and prescription of suitable medication by a doctor. This is considered to be illegal, although no doctor has been charged with assisting in the suicide of a hopelessly ill patient in Victoria.
Medically Assisted Dying
Both medically assisted suicide and active voluntary euthanasia come under the heading of medically assisted dying.
Terminal Sedation (TS)
Deliberately placing a patient in a sedated state by the continuous administration of sedative and analgesic drugs. This is done to relieve very severe pain, breathing difficulties and/or psychological distress.
The drugs may have the side-effect of hastening death, but the primary intention is to relieve the patient's suffering.