To the Editor.
—I have read theoretical proposals concerning guidelines for legalizing euthanasia and preventing unwanted euthanasia from occurring,1,2 but the article by Dr Hendin and colleagues3 on the reality of what happens is the first major article to question whether this could actually be done. Anecdotal articles4 romanticize and idealize euthanasia, yet articles5 noting the possibility of misuse against the poor have been largely ignored. Parallel to these developments, the language regarding removing unwanted and futile extraordinary treatment from the dying vs language regarding direct killing has been confused—a confusion exploited in polls (which use ambiguous language, lack statistical validity due to sampling errors, or both6) that "show" that most Americans wish to legalize euthanasia or "prove" that euthanasia is already widely performed by health care personnel.There have, of course, been articles that are "balanced," but even these are commonly written in the
O'Connor NK. Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Lessons From the Dutch. JAMA. 1997;278(10):817. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550100043021