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Terms and Definitions

Advance Directive


Written legal documents by which a patient expresses his wishes concerning the kind of care he wants to receive in the event he becomes unable to make his own treatment decisions.


Assisted Dying


Assisted dying is an overarching term that includes both what has been called assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Nowadays, the term ‘(Medical) Aid in Dying’ is also used.




A concept to describe the capacity of an individual to make independent choices.




CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a set of specific medical procedures designed to establish circulation and breathing in a patient who's suffered an arrest of both. CPR is a supportive therapy, designed to maintain perfusion to vital organs while attempts are made to restore spontaneous breathing and cardiac rhythm.




DNR, do not resuscitate, is placed on a patient's medical chart to indicate there should be no attempt to restart a failed heartbeat or restore breathing by any means such as by using CPR (see CPR), a ventilator, electrical stimulation, or use of medications for this purpose. A DNR order can be changed and experts say it should be reviewed regularly.




Deliberate termination of life by someone else, on the explicit request of the person involved. Voluntary’ euthanasia (VE) is a term to emphasize the voluntariness of the request for euthanasia. Some add the terms passive/active to make a distinction between palliative sedation (passive) and euthanasia (active) (see palliative sedation).




term used in medical care to describe medical interventions that will have little effect on outcome or prognosis. 


Palliative sedation


The practice of relieving distress in a terminally ill person in the last hours or days of a dying patient’s life. The objective is to control pain and discomfort, not to shorten the patient’s life.


(Physician) Assisted suicide

Termination of life by person concerned (suicide), with the assistance of a physician (prescribing drugs).


Prohibition of treatment


A (written) statement advising health professionals that no exceptional  measures should be used to attempt to save a person’s life.


Right to Die

A basic conviction that end-of-life decisions should be an individual choice.