By Ian Dowbiggin
Whereas it might look that debates over euthanasia begun with Jack Kervorkian, the perform of mercy killing extends again to historic Greece and past. In the US, the controversy has raged for good over a century. Now, in A Merciful finish, Ian Dowbiggin deals the 1st full-scale old account of 1 of the main debatable reform routine in the United States. Drawing on extraordinary entry to the files of the Euthanasia Society of the US, interviews with vital figures within the circulate this present day, and flashpoint situations resembling the tragic destiny of Karen Ann Quinlan, Dowbiggin tells the dramatic tale of the boys and girls who struggled during the 20th century to alter the nation's attitude--and its laws--regarding mercy killing. In tracing the historical past of the euthanasia move, he records its intersection with different innovative social explanations: women's suffrage, contraception, abortion rights, in addition to its uneasy pre-WWII alliance with eugenics. Such hyperlinks introduced euthanasia activists into fierce clash with Judeo-Christian associations who frightened that "the correct to die" may develop into a "duty to die." certainly, Dowbiggin argues that by means of becoming a member of a occasionally overzealous quest to maximise human freedom with a wish to "improve" society, the euthanasia stream has been dogged via the terror that mercy killing will be prolonged to people with disabilities, handicapped newborns, subconscious geriatric sufferers, lifelong criminals, or even the negative. Justified or now not, such fears have stalled the circulation, as increasingly more americans now favor greater end-of-life care than wholesale alterations in euthanasia legislation. For a person attempting to make a decision even if euthanasia bargains a humane substitute to lengthy anguish or violates the "sanctity of life," A Merciful finish offers interesting and much-needed ancient context.
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Extra resources for A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America
Governments from Sweden to Latin America introduced legislation based on eugenic principles, including laws restricting marriage, curbing immigration, and permitting coercive sterilization of the handicapped. Eugenics authorized the reduction of social problems to utilitarianism and evolutionary biology while dispensing with approaches based on traditional value systems, largely what many advocates of euthanasia were inclined to favor. 56 By the 1920s, the United States had become perhaps the world’s most eugenic nation.
Ingersoll’s utilitarian theory that whatever maximizes human happiness is best is remarkably similar to twentieth-century Humanism, the ideology of the American Humanist Association (founded in 1942). Humanists, who believe that giving individuals the widest freedom of choice over personal life and death matters is the best way to reduce the sum of human misery, and that science ought to be privileged over religious knowledge, have been at the forefront of the movement to legalize euthanasia in modern America.
65 Similar conclusions cropped up among medical professionals engaged in the study and care of the mentally retarded. By the early 1880s a consensus had emerged that state schools for the retarded were primarily designed to keep them from reproducing. Physicians, relying on the now-discredited theory that “like begets like,” stressed both heredity and the high fertility of feebleminded girls. Incarceration and custodialism replaced rehabilitation. 66 The specter of spiraling costs to hospitalize the feebleminded, the insane, and other handicapped groups encouraged some Americans to broach the previously unmentionable idea of mercy killing the feebleminded and insane.