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November 23, 1970

Euthanasia and the Right to Death: The Case for Voluntary Euthanasia

Author Affiliations

Cornell College Mt. Vernon, Iowa


by A. B. Downing, 206 pp, $6.50, New York: Humanities Press, Inc., 1970.

JAMA. 1970;214(8):1567. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03180080147041

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


This slim volume—11 perceptive essays by eminent authorities in the fields of medicine, law, theology, government and philosophy—constitutes a many-faceted "case for voluntary euthanasia." These essays seek to focus upon a single objective —the moral right of a person to decide for himself when his life shall be terminated. A sharp distinction is made between voluntary euthanasia, on the one hand, and "mercy killing" on the other. These advocates of voluntary euthanasia dissociate themselves from those who would urge the taking of life, by the state, of the senile, the mentally defective, or the incurable. These authors argue that certain basic humane values lead to the moral conclusion that each person should have the freedom to choose "between a dignified and a squalid death." Just as we exercise control over natural forces to secure a patient's health, so also, the argument runs, rational management of the end of life should