Terminology

In our movement, terminology and imagery are important to correctly indicate what we advocate for versus other terms which are often used.

  • Death with Dignity/Physician-Assisted Death/Assisted Dying: Under the Oregon, Washington, and Vermont Death with Dignity laws, terminally ill patients who are mentally competent to make their own medical care decisions may request a prescription of medication to hasten their deaths. These patients must also be able to self-administer the medication.
  • Inaccurate Terminology and Imagery:
    Euthanasia: We don't advocate for laws which allow euthanasia; in fact, euthanasia is specifically outlawed within the text of Death with Dignity Acts. Euthanasia often refers to the act of painlessly but deliberately causing the death of another who is suffering from an incurable, painful disease or condition. It's commonly thought of as lethal injection. An injection is never involved under these laws.

    Suicide: Because the person is in the process of dying and seeking the option to hasten an already inevitable and imminent death, the request to hasten a death isn't equated with suicide. None of the moral, existential, or religious connotations of suicide apply when the patient's primary objective is not to end an otherwise open-ended span of life, but to find dignity in an already impending exit from this world. They're participating in an act to shorten the agony of their final hours, not killing themselves. Cancer (or another underlying condition) is killing them.

    Assisted suicide: Assisted suicide is a biased phrase which opponents often use to scare people about Death with Dignity laws. More accurately refers to criminals like this guy.

Please also refer to the following pages for more information about terminology and Frequently Asked Questions in the Death with Dignity movement.

Defend dignity. Take action.

You are the key to ensuring well-crafted Death with Dignity laws for all Americans. With your financial and volunteer help, the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)(3), non-partisan, non-profit organization, has been the leading advocate in the death with dignity movement. Member contributions helped us pass a new Death with Dignity law in Washington, defend the Oregon law, and provide education and outreach programs for the vitality of the death with dignity movement.

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