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The Pediatric Forum
June 1998

Sitting at the Top of the Slope

Author Affiliations

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Copyright 1998 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1998

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152(6):607-608. doi:

In the note at the beginning of the brilliant article by Parent and Shevell, Dr DeAngelis suggested that the reason to read it was probably "to remind ourselves that this dark passage in medical history must never be repeated." I agree; however, I believe you only scratched the surface of the matter. This article also provides great insight into our present and perhaps even our future.

As we all know, there are numerous philosophical and moral debates within the medical community and amongst bioethicists. The 2 most prominent issues are those that lie at opposite ends of the life cycle: abortion and euthanasia. Both of these issues raise many of the same questions in our contemporary discussions as those explored by the Germans 60 years ago. What is a "life worth living?" When is "personhood" attained or lost? How do we best allocate limited medical resources? It is obvious from what we read in Parent and Shevell and what we know from history that the German leaders, physicians, and people came to very definitive answers on these "moral debates." History also shows us that these decisions were made while sliding down a "slippery slope" that began with the infanticide of children with congenital malformations and within a few short years progressed to genocide of the "unfit," be they Jewish, Gypsy, mentally ill, or homosexual.

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