Active euthanasia, unlike passive euthanasia, causes the death of a person through direct action. It is done in response to the request of a suffering individual. The patients need not be terminal, but are usually in excruciating pain and have no will to live. A very famous example of active euthanasia was Dr. Kevorkian’s 1998 mercy killing of Thomas Youk, which was aired on 60 Minutes. The doctor himself injected Youk, who was suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), with the death-inducing substances.

One night, when I was eleven or so,
my father and I went to his office
after dark.

I do not remember why.

As we left, I thought of home
and the places my father goes
when he is not there.

His office was full of signs of a life secret to me.

The headlamps played on landscaped
corporate gardens
as we drove home.

I saw two men by the side of the road.

They knelt in the too-bright light
before their pickup truck,
and they held a fawn by its head and legs.

I did not know why.

The fawn was kicking in terrified agony and
the faces of those men were grim
with intent.

And we stopped at a red light.

I rose in my seat to look some more and shivered,
thinking of the fawn and its head and its hooves:
tearing at the pavement.

One of the men brought his arm in an arc over the head of the deer

(like a shaman like a healer)

and crushed its skull with a hammer.
The fawn stopped suddenly.

It did not revel in death.

I was filled with terrible fascination by the spectacle
and I asked my father why they had done
what they had done.

He turned to me and half-smiled through his beard.

they had to because they hit it with their truck
says my father-memory now,
and they could not let it suffer.

It was years before I really learned that compassion
wears masks and
sometimes travels under different names.
The Nazis killed thousands of their own countrymen through active euthanasia before World War II ever started under a program known as Aktion T4*. Hitler was obsessed with the idea of Darwinism and life being a struggle, unfortunately he, as well as many others at the time mis-interpreted {Darwin]'s work. Hitler, as well as other party members felt the need to "purify" the "Aryan" bloodline before moving on to removing the Jews, Gypsies and others from the European bloodlines (at first this was going to be done through deportation as outlined in the Madagascar Plan).
Where was I? -- Oh yes; the Nazis saw the mentally ill, physically and mentally disabled, cripples, and the terminally ill as burdens to their families and society as a whole. The Nazis offered to place these individuals in group homes and hospitals to ease the burden on their families. At this time Germany is still recovering from World War I and the Great depression so naturally these families jumped at the chance for state assistance.

Those who were turned over to state care were taken to hospitals and group homes by bus or car (very civilized, not at all the way the genocide was conducted). A few weeks later the families would receive a form letter saying that their brother/sister/father/mother/grandparent had succumbed to their ailment and died.

Actually these people were killed by a variety of means. The national euthanasia program became a practice ground for those later responsible for the genocide.

The reason this was called euthanasia and not murder or homicide is for two reasons: First it was the killers who named the program, and secondly: the Nazis wanted a quick and efficient means of death which was also painless. Euthanasia simply means "Good Death." They felt that they were putting these people out of their misery while purifying the "Aryan" blood line.

*- Thank you Uberfetus for reminding me of this.

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