By Ian Dowbiggin
Whereas it may possibly look that debates over euthanasia started with Jack Kervorkian, the perform of mercy killing extends again to historical Greece and past. In the US, the controversy has raged for good over a century. Now, in A Merciful finish, Ian Dowbiggin bargains the 1st full-scale historic account of 1 of the main arguable reform pursuits in the United States. Drawing on extraordinary entry to the files of the Euthanasia Society of the USA, interviews with vital figures within the circulation this day, and flashpoint situations akin to the tragic destiny of Karen Ann Quinlan, Dowbiggin tells the dramatic tale of the lads and ladies who struggled in the course of the 20th century to alter the nation's attitude--and its laws--regarding mercy killing. In tracing the background of the euthanasia move, he records its intersection with different innovative social factors: 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 fearful that "the correct to die" could turn into a "duty to die." certainly, Dowbiggin argues that by way of becoming a member of a occasionally overzealous quest to maximise human freedom with a wish to "improve" society, the euthanasia move has been dogged by way of the phobia that mercy killing should be prolonged to folks with disabilities, handicapped newborns, subconscious geriatric sufferers, lifelong criminals, or even the terrible. Justified or no longer, such fears have stalled the stream, as an increasing number of americans now want greater end-of-life care than wholesale alterations in euthanasia legislation. For an individual attempting to come to a decision no matter if euthanasia bargains a humane substitute to lengthy ache or violates the "sanctity of life," A Merciful finish presents interesting and much-needed ancient context.
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Extra info for A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America
112 Thus, the 1920s proved to be only a temporary lull in the history of the euthanasia movement. A crisis in mainstream Protestant churches in the 1920s would spawn liberal trends and encourage various reform-minded Americans involved in the campaigns for eugenics, female suffrage, socialized medicine, world peace, and birth control to question their faith and ﬂock to the euthanasia colors in the 1930s. The debate over euthanasia would reignite over a series of highly publicized suicides in the thirties and the founding of the Euthanasia Society of America in 1938, providing momentum that helped to sustain the ﬂedgling movement in the teeth of sometimes ﬁerce opposition through to the 1960s.
82 Following Haeckel, London was a self-confessed materialist and atheist, rejecting the more moderate agnosticism of other Darwinians. “I have always inclined toward Haeckel’s position,” he wrote in 1914. In fact, “incline” is too weak a word. I am a hopeless naturalist. I see the soul as nothing else than the sum of the activities of the organism plus personal habits, memories, experiences of 21 | Origins the organism. I believe that when I am dead, I am dead. 83 For London, euthanasia was a logical conclusion for someone like himself, persuaded that evolution and scientiﬁc naturalism were true.
This process had begun as early as 1877, when the American merchant Richard L. 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.
A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America by Ian Dowbiggin