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Euthanasia Debate

July 24, 1987

Parachini's article on legalized euthanasia in the Netherlands provided much food for thought as to whether we ought to be in such a rush to jump on the same bandwagon in this country.

One point in the article deserves a little more elaboration. Euthanasia advocates such as Dr. Admiraal and our own Hemlock Society claim that the "euthanasia" employed in Nazi Germany was an unfortunate euphemism for political murder, having nothing to do with the kind of benevolent medical euthanasia at issue today. What they have brushed under the rug, however, is the fact that Hitler's abuse of the concept could not have been possible if it were not for the widespread social acceptance of true medical euthanasia that had evolved during the decade and a half prior to Hitler's coming to power.

According to Robert Lifton's book, "The Nazi Doctors," and other historical documentaries of that period, the first gas chambers were set up not in concentration camps, but in hospitals. They were first used not on political prisoners or Jews, but on mentally ill Aryans. Even after Hitler officially ended the euthanasia project in 1941, the scope of "indications" for euthanasia continued to expand within the medical profession to include such conditions as minor physical deformities, mild senility, "problem children" and others. Right up to the end of the war, and in some places even a few days afterwards, doctors continued to select and kill such patients as simply the logical extension of the euthanasia mentality that began to take root in German society back in the 1920s.

It is simply incredible that the Netherlands, of all places, has forgotten such an important lesson of so recent history.

SUE YUDOVIN RN

Sherman Oaks Community Hospital Burn Center

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