Glossary

Active voluntary euthanasia (AVE)

A form of assisted dying in which another person, who is usually a medical doctor, administers medication to an individual who has made a formal request for such action, and whose purpose is to bring about the death of the individual.

Ad hominem attack

A logical fallacy in which a position is attacked on the basis of some irrelevant characteristic of the person who holds it, rather than against the position itself. ‘Ad hominem’ is a Latin expression meaning ‘to the man’. Example: “Well he is an academic”, meaning to dismiss a position because its holder is an academic (implication: having a poor understanding of the real world) rather than addressing the principles or evidence of the position itself.

Assisted dying (AD)

The rendering of assistance whose ultimate purpose is to bring about death, to an individual who has expressed a considered and persistent wish to die in response to incurable, unrelievable and intolerable symptoms, and in a manner that is judged to be dignified by the dying individual. It does not include the rendering of assistance to live while actively dying.

Assisted suicide (AS)

A form of assisted dying in which assistance is rendered in a manner that allows the individual to bring about their own death. The assister does not take the step which brings about death.

Bioethics

The study of ethics as it relates to the principles and practice of biology, especially (but not exclusively) in the context of medical research, medicine and healthcare relating to the creation of life, and to death.

Continuous deep sedation (CDS)

The administration of medications to a patient who is expected to die within hours or days, to minimise consciousness, for the purpose of relieving refractory and intolerable suffering, and not for the purpose of hastening death.

Die with dignity (DWD)

In the context of an elective death, to die in a manner consistent with one’s own positive world views and values, including poise, self-control, honour and respect.

Dignity

  1. A sense of poise, pride or self-respect. “To stand on one’s dignity.”
  2. A composed or decorous manner, stately, self-controlled, possessing physical or psychological integrity. “He faced his death with great dignity.”
  3. Worthy of esteem, respect, honour or ethical treatment. “The dignity of the person.”

Double-effect—doctrine of

A situation in which a course of action has both a good and a bad effect, in which the bad effect is not intended and the good effect is intended and is believed to outweigh the bad effect. In the context of assisted dying, it is the administration of medications that render the individual unconscious in order to provide relief from intolerable and otherwise unrelievable suffering of a terminal illness (the good effect), yet whose foreseeable but unintended consequence may be to hasten dying (the bad effect).

Ethics

The branch of philosophy which deals with shared or group morality: distinguishing between right (good) and wrong (evil) for an identified cohort of people.

Eugenics

The principle of ‘improving’ the genetic quality of a human population through selective breeding (state-controlled reproduction) and culling (murder). The best-known case is of Nazi Europe, in which the Nazi regime judged ‘inferior’ genetic forms to include the mentally ill, the physically deformed, Jews and homosexuals. From the Greek ‘eu’ (well, good) and ‘genos’ (kin or race).

Euthanasia

Strictly-speaking: ‘a good death’. From the Greek ‘eu’ (well, good) and ‘thanatos’ (death): Ευ Θανατοσ. It is believed that the expression was first coined in the English language by Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) with its first citation attributed to Joseph Hall some twenty years later.

The term ‘euthanasia’ is often and confusingly used in place of longer but contextually correct terms such as assisted dying and especially active voluntary euthanasia. Some commentators even go so far as to use the term to refer to non-voluntary euthanasia, and even involuntary euthanasia—for example the Nazi Europe systematic murder program—for which the expression is quite incorrect: the correct expression in that case is eugenics.

F-Files

A classification system developed by Neil Francis and adopted within DyingForChoice.com to categorise unsound and invalid tactics used by opponents of assisted dying law reform. See Faith, Fearmonger, Fiction, Flapdoodle, Filibuster, Flip-Flop, Fudge.

Fact

A thing that is known or proved to be true on the basis of sound and verifiable evidence using valid analysis methods.

Faith

To use religion—or the claimed tenets of a particular version of a particular religion—to argue that all others should adhere to its values and abide by its rules of conduct. See F-Files.

Fearmonger

To represent a thing or situation as considerably more sinister or dangerous than it is when assessed objectively using evidence and balanced evaluation. See F-Files.

Fiction

A thing that is untrue, or invented or feigned by imagination with no sound or verifiable evidence. See F-Files.

Flapdoodle

An argument that superficially seems intuitively attractive, true or real, but is in fact meaningless or nonsensical. See F-Files.

Filibuster

To employ an artificial and overly-lengthy process in an attempt to stall or block a possible political outcome. Examples include excessively long speeches especially when about unrelated subjects, and referral to (yet another) committee or review authority for consideration. See F-Files.

Flip-flop

To use multiple inconsistent or opposed arguments to justify a position; or to change position back and forth. See F-Files.

Fudge

To use unscientific analysis methods or inappropriately selective data to support an argument or conclusion, where valid scientific analysis methods or use of available full data would support different conclusions. See F-Files.

Involuntary euthanasia (IVE)

The deliberate hastening of the death of an individual in contravention of the express wishes to the contrary of that individual.

Morality, morals

Principles of right (good) and wrong (evil) that guide an individual’s attitudes, beliefs and conduct.

Non-voluntary euthanasia (NVE)

The deliberate hastening of the death of an individual without an explicit request from that individual.

Palliative care (PC)

A system of care for terminally ill persons: i.e. a care system engaged when medical interventions are unable to cure or heal an illness or condition which will end life. It encompasses physical, psychosocial and spiritual care.  It covers family members as well as the dying individual. It is normally delivered by a multi-disciplinary team.

Palliative sedation

The administration of medications that minimise a dying individual’s consciousness for the purpose of relief from refractory and intolerable suffering. It may take the form of episodic sedation which is titrated in response to a rise and fall of symptom severity; respite sedation in which the patient is deliberately rendered unconscious for a period of time (e.g. a day or two) to relieve illness stress and then to regain consciousness; or continuous deep sedation administered until death which is anticipated to occur within hours or days.

Passive euthanasia (PE)

A good death as a result of either withholding or withdrawing life-preserving medical treatment. Some commentators object to the term, saying that withholding or withdrawing treatment is not ‘euthanasia’ at all because they equate euthanasia incorrectly with ‘killing/murder’ rather than correctly with ‘a good death’.

Physician-assisted dying (PAD)

A form of assisted dying in which a medical doctor assists a patient to hasten his or her own death, usually by issuing a prescription for the necessary medication for the patient to fulfil and to take.

Refusal of medical treatment (ROMT)

The patient refuses offered or recommended medical treatment for any reason whatsoever (and may not even communicate a reason), even if the treatment is necessary to preserve life.

Slippery slope (SS) argument

A logical fallacy in which it is claimed that taking a first step in a certain direction means necessarily and without limit proceeding in that direction (metaphorically, slipping without control of any kind down a slope).

Straw-man argument

A logical fallacy in which the arguer makes a distorted, exaggerated or false representation about an opponent’s position, and then proceeds to attack the position. For example, “what’s wrong with people who support voluntary euthanasia, is that they see the problem is that the patient is alive”.

Suicide

An act in which an individual intentionally brings about their own death. If the act does not result in death it is referred to as an attempted (not ‘failed’) suicide. If the act does result in death it is referred to as a completed (not ‘successful’) suicide.

Terminal sedation

Another term for continuous deep sedation. However, ‘terminal sedation’ is not favoured by many palliative care specialists because it may be misconstrued to mean that the purpose of the sedation is to terminate life, when in fact the purpose is (only) to help alleviate suffering from refractory and intolerable symptoms. The term ‘terminal’ actually refers to the patient’s terminal phase of life—that is, actively dying and expected to die within hours or days. As confusion is likely, it is recommended to avoid this term.

Voluntary cessation of eating and drinking (VCED)

See voluntary refusal of food and fluids (VRFF).

Voluntary euthanasia (VE)

The general concept or act in which an individual voluntarily—i.e. with free will/without undue influence—and actively achieves their own ‘good death’. It is also commonly but confusingly used as shorthand for active voluntary euthanasia (in which someone else administers the fatal medication to the individual) in order to differentiate it from physician assisted dying (in which the individual self-administers the fatal medication).

Voluntary palliated starvation (VPS)

A form of voluntary refusal of food and fluids (VRFF) in which palliative care services are provided in order to address symptoms and suffering that may be experienced.

Voluntary refusal of food and fluids (VRFF)

The concept or act in which an individual voluntarily—i.e. with free will/without undue influence—decides to bring about their own death by refusing nutrition and hydration. Also known as voluntary cessation of eating and drinking (VCED), and, when palliative care is brought to bear in support of the dying individual, voluntary palliated starvation (VPS).

Withdrawing medical treatment

An act of ‘commission’: deciding to cease and withdraw administration of medical interventions which are currently judged on reasonable grounds as necessary to maintain an individual’s life.

Withholding medical treatment

An act of ‘omission’: deciding not to commence administration of medical interventions which are currently judged on reasonable grounds as necessary to maintain an individual’s life.