Passive euthanasia, probably the most common form of euthanasia
, is defined as "hastening the death
of a person by withdrawing some form of support
and letting nature take its course".
This vague definition includes a number of different procedures. Removing necessary life support equipment, such as turning off a respirator, is a form of passive euthanasia. Ending life-prolonging medical procedures and medications is another kind. Passive euthanasia can also take the form of stopping all food and water, allowing the patient to starve or dehydrate to death. Even after someone’s heart has stopped, not delivering life-saving CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and allowing a person to die is often viewed as a type of passive euthanasia. Most likely, the most common form of passive euthanasia is for a doctor to give a patient a large dose of painkillers to control pain, in spite of knowing that the painkiller itself (most often morphine) could bring about death at such high dosages.
Passive euthanasia is, by definition, performed on terminally ill, suffering people, for the sole purpose of hastening natural death. Passive euthanasia is also used to end the lives of patients in a persistent vegetative state, such as a coma. Passive euthanasia, because it generally involves letting nature take its course, is the least controversial form of euthanasia. Even many conservative religions support it in most of its forms.