A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America

Hardcover | January 15, 2003

byIan R. Dowbiggin

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Ian R. Dowbiggin is a 2011 Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada.While it may seem that debates over euthanasia began with Jack Kervorkian, the practice of mercy killing extends back to Ancient Greece and beyond. In America, the debate has raged for well over a century. Now, in A Merciful End, Ian Dowbiggin offers the first full-scale historical account of one of the most controversial reform movements in America. Drawing on unprecedented access to the archives of the Euthanasia Society of America, interviews with important figures in the movement today, andflashpoint cases such as the tragic fate of Karen Ann Quinlan, Dowbiggin tells the dramatic story of the men and women who struggled throughout the twentieth century to change the nation's attitude--and its laws--regarding mercy killing. In tracing the history of the euthanasia movement, hedocuments its intersection with other progressive social causes: women's suffrage, birth control, abortion rights, as well as its uneasy pre-WWII alliance with eugenics. Such links brought euthanasia activists into fierce conflict with Judeo-Christian institutions who worried that "the right to die"might become a "duty to die." Indeed, Dowbiggin argues that by joining a sometimes overzealous quest to maximize human freedom with a desire to "improve" society, the euthanasia movement has been dogged by the fear that mercy killing could be extended to persons with disabilities, handicappednewborns, unconscious geriatric patients, lifelong criminals, and even the poor. Justified or not, such fears have stalled the movement, as more and more Americans now prefer better end-of-life care than wholesale changes in euthanasia laws. For anyone trying to decide whether euthanasia offers a humane alternative to prolonged suffering or violates the "sanctity of life," A Merciful End provides fascinating and much-needed historical context.

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Ian R. Dowbiggin is a 2011 Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada.While it may seem that debates over euthanasia began with Jack Kervorkian, the practice of mercy killing extends back to Ancient Greece and beyond. In America, the debate has raged for well over a century. Now, in A Merciful End, Ian Dowbiggin offers the first full...

Ian Dowbiggin is Professor of History at the University of Prince Edward Island.

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Format:HardcoverPublished:January 15, 2003Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195154436

ISBN - 13:9780195154436

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Origins2. Breathrough, 1920-19403. Stalemate, 1940-19604. Riding a Great Wave, 1960-19755. Not That Simple, 1975-19906. Conclusion: The 1900's and Beyond

Editorial Reviews

"In a fascinating and comprehensive analysis of the American euthanasia movement, Dowbiggin rectifies the historical record, demonstrating that the ideological justification for euthanasia lies not in the advanced medical technologies of the late 20th century, but in the social Darwinism,eugenics, and utilitarianism of the late 19th century."--Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D.