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March 25, 1968

Medicine and Religion

Author Affiliations

Syracuse, NY

JAMA. 1968;203(13):1141. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140130053017

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To the Editor:—  In a recent article under the MEDICINE AND RELIGION section (203:65, 1967) Professor George Fletcher states that there is no case in the Anglo-American tradition in which a doctor has been convicted of murder or manslaughter for having killed to end the suffering of his patient. As an example, Professor Fletcher cites the murder trial of Dr. Hermann Sander who confessed to having injected air into an arm vein of a cancer-stricken patient. Professor Fletcher concludes the example with a statement as follows: "Nonetheless, the motive of mercy prompted the jury of laymen to acquit Dr. Sander."A more than cursory review of the case would reveal to Professor Fletcher that expert testimony at the trial by Dr. Richard Ford (at that time a member of the Department of Legal Medicine of the Harvard Medical School) clearly showed that an intravenous injection of air was impossible