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September 12, 1994

Euthanasia: Historical, Ethical, and Empiric Perspectives

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Cancer Control and Epidemiology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Division of Medical Ethics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(17):1890-1901. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420170022003

Debates about the ethics of euthanasia date from ancient Greece and Rome. In 1870, S. D. Williams, a nonphysician, proposed that anesthetics be used to intentionally end the lives of patients. Between 1870 and 1936, a debate about the ethics of euthanasia raged in the United States and Britain. These debates predate and invoke different arguments than do debates about euthanasia in Germany. Recognizing the increased interest in euthanasia, this article reviews the definitions related to euthanasia, the historical record of debates concerning euthanasia, the arguments for and against euthanasia, the situation in the Netherlands, and the empirical data regarding euthanasia in the United States.

(Arch Intern Med. 1994;154:1890-1901)

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