Euthanasia is a controversial subject which raises a number of ethical issues. It is generally agreed that there are two basic types of euthanasia: passive and active. Passive euthanasia occurs whenever a terminally ill person is simply allowed to die. The case of Karen Quinlan in the mid-1970's and that of Nancy Cruzan in 1990 are two examples of passive euthanasia which have caught the attention of the public in recent years. In both cases, life-support systems were removed from patients who had no hope of recovery. The Supreme Court decision in the cruzan case indicated that the termination of life-support is permissible only if there is evidence "that the patient would have wished it." Thus, it was established that an act of passive euthanasia must be voluntary in order for it to be legal.
Active euthanasia differs from passive euthanasia in that it involves the active killing of a person in order to end suffering and pain. Thus far, the Supreme Court has not permitted the use of active euthanasia in America. Nevertheless, active euthanasia is rapidly becoming a controversial issue at this time. For example, Jack Kevorkian, a Michigan doctor, has built a "suicide machine" which helps patients kill themselves with an automatically injected dose of lethal drugs. Although it is illegal for Kevorkian to use his machine at this time, there are an increasing number of people who are arguing in favor of active euthanasia in certain cases. The proponents of active
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