This article argues that taking concepts of euthanasia out of their political and economic contexts leads to violations of the premises on which the Stoic ideal of euthanasia is based: 'a quick, gentle and honourable death.' For instance, the transplantation of the narrowly defined concept of euthanasia developed under the Dutch welfare system into a developing country, such as the People's Republic of China (PRC), seems inadequate. For it cannot deal with questions of anxiety about degrading forms of dying and suffering without reference to its economic rationale, demanded by a scarcity (unequal distribution) of health care resources. The weakness of health care provisions for the terminally ill in Mainland China has become increasingly poignant since the collapse of collective health care institutions in the countryside since the reforms of the late-1980s. As in most cases where health care facilities are wanting, it is difficult to apply the criteria of gentleness and dignity at reaching death. Its solution lies not in a faster relief from suffering by euthanasia, but in extending the quality of life through distributive justice within Chinese healthcare policy-making. This paper begins with a brief description of the Dutch euthanasia law, after which it discusses Chinese conceptions of euthanasia in biomedical textbooks, the media and in surveys. It concludes by pointing out the need for a transnational framework in which both the specifics and generalities of euthanasia can be discussed.