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September 2005

The Emerging Issue of Euthanasia

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159(9):887-889. doi:10.1001/archpedi.159.9.887

In his memoirs, the physician-scientist Lewis Thomas remembered how the teaching at Harvard Medical School (Boston, Mass) in 1933 focused on diagnosis and prognosis because there was little that therapeutics could offer. The task of the physician was to make an accurate diagnosis and then explain its implications to the patient and family: “ . . . [I]t gradually dawned on us that we didn’t know much that was really useful, that we could do nothing to change the course of the great majority of the diseases we were so busy analyzing. . . . ”1(p29) Then a revolution occurred, heralded by the introduction of sulfanilamide to treat septicemia: