Euthanasia (from the Greek eu thanatos meaning good death) is the intentional and deliberate ending of a human life by either withholding necessary, viable, and ordinary treatment (called passive euthanasia) or by introducing a substance (such as a poison) or procedure that directly causes death (called active euthanasia).
Both passive and active euthanasia are considered gravely evil and immoral and in the same moral category as abortion in terms of being the unjust killing of an innocent human life.
Patients are never obligated to endure painful procedures which are worse than their current condition and which do not have a reasonable hope of success. During the Civil War, many soldiers died not from war injuries but from the results of medical procedures, for example, infections from botched amputations. In such cases, refusal of these “extraordinary means” would not be considered euthanasia. Today, however, with the progress of medicine, technology, and rehabilitative treatment, drastic procedures like amputation can be done, and survivors usually live and adapt to their disability and are able to function in society, have a family, maintain employment, and live a relatively normal life.
Dying patients are allowed to be given as much pain medication as their bodies can tolerate as long as the dosage itself does not directly cause death. Too much morphine can stop breathing, whereas monitored amounts can keep a person relaxed and comfortable, rather than in excruciating pain and misery.
So-called mercy killing and the efforts of Doctor Kevorkian and the Hemlock Society to make euthanasia socially acceptable are condemned by the Church. God alone should decide when someone leaves this earth—not the patient, doctor, or caretaker. Keeping the dying patient pain-free, comfortable, clean, nourished, and hydrated, so as not to starve him to death, and just allowing the natural death process to take its course is how human beings die with dignity.