A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America by Ian Dowbiggin

By Ian Dowbiggin

Whereas it could actually look that debates over euthanasia begun with Jack Kervorkian, the perform of mercy killing extends again to old Greece and past. In the United States, the talk 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 hobbies in the United States. Drawing on unheard of entry to the records of the Euthanasia Society of the USA, interviews with very important figures within the flow this present day, and flashpoint instances comparable to the tragic destiny of Karen Ann Quinlan, Dowbiggin tells the dramatic tale of the boys and ladies who struggled during the 20th century to alter the nation's attitude--and its laws--regarding mercy killing. In tracing the heritage of the euthanasia stream, 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" may possibly develop into a "duty to die." certainly, Dowbiggin argues that through becoming a member of a occasionally overzealous quest to maximise human freedom with a wish to "improve" society, the euthanasia flow has been dogged through the phobia that mercy killing will be prolonged to folks with disabilities, handicapped newborns, subconscious geriatric sufferers, lifelong criminals, or even the terrible. Justified or now not, such fears have stalled the circulation, as a growing number of american citizens now desire larger end-of-life care than wholesale alterations in euthanasia legislation. For someone attempting to make a decision even if euthanasia bargains a humane replacement to lengthy soreness or violates the "sanctity of life," A Merciful finish presents interesting and much-needed ancient context.

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William J. Robinson, a socialist, urologist, sex radical, and Progressive era muckraker, epitomized the links between eugenics and euthanasia in 1913. Robinson was one of the earliest examples of that common twentieth-century phenomenon, the left-leaning proponent of euthanasia who also campaigned for eugenics and birth control, while urging society to adopt new value systems regarding sex, birth, and death. Robinson utterly rejected the notion of individual liberty in cases of hereditary defectives or deformed infants.

Euthanasia, then, was more than a choice; under the proper circumstances, it separated humans from the rest of the animal kingdom and testified to their evolutionary superiority. 80 Another notable Progressive-era American whose approval of euthanasia was mixed with an admiration of Darwinism, eugenics, and scientific naturalism was the novelist Jack London, author of the bestsellers Call of the Wild (1903) and The Sea-Wolf (1904). 82 Following Haeckel, London was a self-confessed materialist and atheist, rejecting the more moderate agnosticism of other Darwinians.

Its cultural meaning extended far beyond the science of genetics to encompass public health concerns such as diet, exercise, parenting, pediatrics, and personal hygiene. Although self-styled “serious” eugenicists disliked its popularization, evident in “better baby contests” and “eugenic” movies and stage dramas about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, the fact that eugenics had spread to the mainstream of American life testified to its powerful resonance as a weapon in the campaign to improve the nation’s public health.

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