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April 22, 1974

To Live—To Die

Author Affiliations

Clinton, NC

JAMA. 1974;228(4):501. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230290049036

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None would deny that death is more definitive than even a double-blind experiment; yet, while nearly equal amounts of ethical ink have been spilled about prolongation of life and about human experimentation, the question of consent has been exhaustively studied in relation to the latter, but seldom explored in the context of the former.

While those of us who oppose positive euthanasia do so on the grounds that the physician should not kill, let us admit that there are some few who tend to see a bit of death-dealing as part of the physician's role; yet even most of these would add: "but only with the consent of the patient" (although to feel free to kill, but yet scruple about consent, might suggest an unusual priority of ethical values).

It is not my purpose here to debate the moral aspects of so-called positive and negative euthanasia (a new terminology that