Publication Citation

3 (2) IUSTITIA 22 (1975)


Death is a very individual matter which does not readily lend itself to collective decision. Medical ethicists frequently conclude that to allow a person to die from malice is more reprehensible than to help a person to die from mercy. The most striking change which is taking place in consideration of the problem is recognition of the need to reinforce the patient's right to decide on the course of medical treatment.

A New York Times editorial of February 3, 1903 condemned the practice of active euthanasia by comparing it to "practices of savages in all parts of the world". Seventy years later the Times of July 3, 1973 carried an editorial which recognized compelling arguments for passive euthanasia. It stated ". . . a growing movement now asserts that there is a right to die as well as a right to live, and that the former right is violated often by officious, prolonged, excruciating and expensive medical intervention that keeps people alive who would be better off dead since they are in agony or are living vegetables without hope of recovery."

The subject of euthanasia has at last "come out of the closet", as its complexities are recognized and debated publicly. Individual concern with the dying process is widespread, although this concern has not yet been crystallized into an action oriented movement asserting a civil right. There is a strong possibility that changing attitudes toward euthanasia will soon be expressed in the passage of state legislation, but it will continue to generate polarized opinions for some time to come before a coherent public policy is achieved.