The Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide Movement Essay

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This essay will present in detail and with documentation the formation and growth and stated goals of the euthanasia movement in our country.

The Euthanasia Society of America was formed in 1938 with the aim of proposing legislation to allow active voluntary euthanasia. Three past presidents and one treasurer also favored involuntary, active euthanasia, according to Yale Kamisar in Euthanasia and the Right to Death. In 1967 the society's name was changed to the Euthanasia Educational Council and it officially supported voluntary, passive euthanasia. Many of its members, however, were in favor of active euthanasia.

Dr. Joseph Fletcher, on the advisory council of the Euthanasia Educational Council, advocated in the
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. . to try to get laws passed allowing voluntary euthanasia . . . our board came to the conclusion that it was a mistake to try to push for legislation and that the educational task before us was enormous" (Id. 31).

At that same conference a doctor thought it wrong to keep alive a grossly retarded child because it would harm parents and family. Commenting on the idea of euthanasia for children, Dr. Joseph Fletcher stated, "In terms of educational strategy . . . we use tactics of emotional gradation. If . . . in old age it is less tragic than in youth, we begin with that . . . Then we can begin to apply them to more difficult ages emotionally." On the same point Dr. Ruth Russell thought euthanasia for children ought to be legalized.

In 1978 the Euthanasia Educational Council's newsletter, Euthanasia News (Winter 1978), quoted the current views of Dr. Fletcher, president emeritus of the Euthanasia Society of America, renamed the Society for the Right to Die. He admitted that the need for euthanasia because of unbearable pain was now invalid because of modern analgesia, but the new emphasis was respect for the dignity of patients and concern for their loss of personal qualities even if they had no pain. He favored a change in the law to allow active euthanasia. In his book,

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