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January 5, 1970

The Preservation of Life

Author Affiliations

From the departments of medicine, University of Washington and the Swedish Hospital Medical Center, and the Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle.

JAMA. 1970;211(1):76-82. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170010030005

Physicians who treat terminal patients hear requests for negative euthanasia from the families as well as the patients. Pleas for positive euthanasia are uncommon. The desire for flexibility in the medical management of death was evident among the 418 physicians surveyed. Paradoxically, the physician groups most in favor of change were those least responsible for the care of dying patients—anesthesiologists, pathologists, psychiatrists, and radiologists. About one third of the physicians favored changes in current standards of medical practice which would permit each of the following: (1) negative euthanasia following consent of relatives; (2) positive euthanasia for certain carefully selected patients; or (3) abortion for the convenience of the patient. In the specific instance of patients in a state of chronic uremia, 72% of physicians stated that they would exercise negative euthanasia by not performing dialysis on all patients with chronic uremia.