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Euthanasia, sometimes called mercy killing, is the ending of a person’s life who is terminally ill and suffering in pain. It is different from assisted suicide, which refers to a physician assisting the person in ending their life. 

Euthanasia is more commonly performed on sick or injured animals, as euthanasia for humans is illegal in the majority of the United States. As of June 2021, the only jurisdictions that allow this procedure are Oregon, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Washington, Maine, Colorado, New Jersey, California, and Vermont.

Euthanasia can be voluntary or non-voluntary. In voluntary cases, the person consents to the ending of their life. In a non-voluntary case, the person is unable to consent to the decision, so the decision is made by a guardian. For example, a person in a coma who is unable to make a decision on whether to remove themselves from life support, would need a guardian to make the decision to end their life. 

[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]