By happy dispensation all travel to an end
which sets free from woe.
In our prior examination of attitudes toward death, I argued that the Greek concept of euthanasia (a) referred to a manner of dying; (b) literally translated meant an easy or good death; and (c) logically entailed no one particular theory about what happened to the dead. This account must now be expanded in two important ways.
First, the modern reader, accustomed to restricting the current English versions of this concept to discussions of mercifully ending the life of a hopelessly suffering or defective patient, must appreciate that the Greek use of the term was broader in scope. The Greeks sometimes employed the term to describe the spir itual state of the dying person at the impending approach of death. Hence, euthanasia was a term far broader in scope than contemporary English usage normally allows: its meaning was not anchored in medical contexts alone, though some of these contexts were also covered by it.
Second, for the Greeks euthanasia did not necessarily imply a means or method of causing or hastening death. However, when quick-acting and relatively painless drugs such as hemlock were first developed by the Greeks in the fifth century B.C., which allowed the individual to quit life in an efficient and bloodless manner, the linguistic result was that these forms of suicide were sometimes described as instances of euthanasia. But, even then, this ascription primarily in
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Publication information: Book title: Medical Ethics in the Ancient World. Contributors: Paul Carrick - Author. Publisher: Georgetown University Press. Place of publication: Washington, DC. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 147.
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