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Contrary to the ‘rupture thesis’ favoured in Anglo-American academic discourse, Nazi criminal law did not emerge from a vacuum; nor did it disappear after 1945. The article explains and defends this ‘continuity thesis’. In fact, Nazi criminal law adopted earlier authoritarian tendencies of German criminal law and exacerbated them (the ‘radicalisation thesis’). It is for this reason that Nazi criminal law should not lightly be dismissed as ‘non-law’, thus omitting any further engagement with it. The article will show that the same continuity and radicalisation arguments can be made, mutatis mutandis, for German Nazi criminology, which ultimately became a legitimating science (‘Legitimationswissenschaft’) for Nazi criminal justice policy. The argument is developed in four stages. First, an account is given of the racist and criminal-biologistic foundations of National Socialist criminology, including their continuity both with the past and into the future. This is followed by an explanation of the influence of criminal anthropology (particularly that of Lombroso) on the ‘scientification’ of criminology (the ‘Kraepelin and Aschaffenburg paradigms’). Third, the National Socialist radicalisation of criminology on the basis of the criminal-biological utopia of the ‘blood-based’ Volksgemeinschaft is described. Thus, Nazi criminology derived its strength from and built upon biological theories of crime, which in turn laid the foundations of the deadly Nazi criminal justice policy. The discipline became a science that legitimated National Socialism, contrary to Wetzell's thesis of a somewhat dissident ‘mainstream criminology’. With regard to disturbing developments in current German politics, all this will make clear that the approach of the (German) ‘New Right’ to criminal justice is not novel at all but is derived from the ideologically infused theories and policies of Nazi criminologists during the 1930s.
This paper explores the common argument proposed by opponents of the legalization of euthanasia that permitting ending a patient’s life at their request will lead to the eventual legalization of terminating life without request. The author’s examination of data does not support the conclusion that a causal connection exists between legalizing ending of life on request and an increase in the number of cases without request.
In the Netherlands, euthanasia has been decriminalized. Termination of life on request and assisted suicide are criminal offences under Dutch law; but if physicians comply with the due care requirements of the Euthanasia Act and report their actions in the manner prescribed by law, they will not be prosecuted. One of the requirements relates to the act of euthanasia itself. If this is to be performed with due medical care, the physician relies on the services of a pharmacist. However, the responsibilities of the pharmacist with respect to euthanasia are not laid down in law. At present, Dutch pharmacists have to make do with professional rules that do not offer adequate solutions for the problems that may arise when euthanasia is performed.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) based on a psychiatric disorder (psychiatric EAS) continue to pose ethical and policy challenges, even in countries where the practice has been allowed for years. We conducted a systematic review of reasons, a specific type of review for bioethical questions designed to inform rational policy-making. Our aims were twofold: (1) to systematically identify all published reasons for and against the practice (2) to identify current gaps in the debate and areas for future research.
Following the PRISMA guidelines, we performed a search across seven electronic databases to include publications focusing on psychiatric EAS and providing ethical reasons. Reasons were grouped into domains by qualitative content analysis.
We included 42 articles, most of which were written after 2013. Articles in favor and against were evenly distributed. Articles in favor were mostly full-length pieces written by non-clinicians, with articles against mostly reactive, commentary-type pieces written by clinicians. Reasons were categorized into eight domains: (1) mental and physical illness and suffering (2) decisional capacity (3) irremediability (4) goals of medicine and psychiatry (5) consequences for mental health care (6) psychiatric EAS and suicide (7) self-determination and authenticity (8) psychiatric EAS and refusal of life-sustaining treatment. Parity- (or discrimination-) based reasons were dominant across domains, mostly argued for by non-clinicians, while policy reasons were mostly pointed to by clinicians.
The ethical debate about psychiatric EAS is relatively young, with prominent reasons of parity. More direct engagement is needed to address ethical and policy considerations.
This paper argues that under conditions of uncertainty, there is frequently a positive option value to staying alive when compared to the alternative of dying right away. This value can make it prudentially rational for you to stay alive even if it appears highly unlikely that you have a bright future ahead of you. Drawing on the real options approach to investment analysis, the paper explores the conditions under which there is a positive option value to staying alive, and it draws out important implications for the problems of suicide and euthanasia.
As soon as Adolf Hitler came to into power in 1933, four laws on racial segregation and race protection were edicted between 1934 and 1935. Schizophrenia, manic-depressive psychoses, epilepsy and alcoholism were regarded as hereditary mental illnesses. These laws were responsible for the sterilisation of 350,000 individuals who were thought to be at the source of the propagation of hereditary illnesses which might endanger the health and the future of the Aryan Germans. On September 1, 1939, Action T4 was launched: it required that all the mentally ill be exterminated. This action, which was run by the highest level of the Reich's chancellery with the help of psychiatrists coming from all backgrounds including university professors, was supposed to grant a serene death to all the mentally ill considered as untreatable. The death sentences were carried out by the medical staff in psychiatric hospitals specially equipped with gas chambers. Following protests, Action T4 was officially stopped on August 24, 1941, but, in reality, continued until the end of the war. The death sentences were carried out using either lethal doses of medication or food deprivation. One hundred and fifty thousand individuals fell victim to that therapeutic extermination which played an economic role as important as the one deemed to social protection. Many German academics, researchers, psychiatrists, geneticians and anthropologists played and active part in these murders which were carried out in the name of Nazi ideology based upon the supremacy of the Northern Germanic race and the necessity to protect it from miscegenation, especially from Jews. In the final part of this paper, the author gives an explanation of the perversion of ethics carried out by German psychiatrists.
Despite continuing political, legal and moral debate on the subject, assisted suicide is permitted in only a few countries worldwide. However, few studies have examined the impact that witnessing assisted suicide has on the mental health of family members or close friends.
A cross-sectional survey of 85 family members or close friends who were present at an assisted suicide was conducted in December 2007. Full or partial Post-Traumatic Distress Disorder (PTSD; Impact of Event Scale–Revised), depression and anxiety symptoms (Brief Symptom Inventory) and complicated grief (Inventory of Complicated Grief) were assessed at 14 to 24 months post-loss.
Of the 85 participants, 13% met the criteria for full PTSD (cut-off≥35), 6.5% met the criteria for subthreshold PTSD (cut-off≥25), and 4.9% met the criteria for complicated grief. The prevalence of depression was 16%; the prevalence of anxiety was 6%.
A higher prevalence of PTSD and depression was found in the present sample than has been reported for the Swiss population in general. However, the prevalence of complicated grief in the sample was comparable to that reported for the general Swiss population. Therefore, although there seemed to be no complications in the grief process, about 20% of respondents experienced full or subthreshold PTSD related to the loss of a close person through assisted suicide.
Mendelian ideas were transformed from theoretical speculations into social realities after Hitler became Chancellor, informing the attitude the Nazis developed toward the mentally ill and shaping the Nazi sterilization policy. Mendelian reasoning led to the inclusion of certain disease categories (blindness, deafness, Huntington’s chorea) in the Nazi Sterilization Law of July 1933, an inclusion that later helped the Nazis to argue that their sterilization campaign was grounded in Mendelian teaching. In high schools, Mendelian theory was explained as corroborating the sterilization policy, while also posing pedagogic challenges to teachers trying to convey eugenic ideas to their students. When it came to the implementation of the sterilization law and the proceedings held in different hereditary courts, although the sterilization campaign was implemented independent of Mendelian theory, it was still informed by and imbued with Mendelian suppositions. These suppositions empowered state authorities while disempowering the victims of the sterilization campaign – the “feebleminded,” the “mentally weak” and the physically impaired. In rare cases, however, Mendelian logic was used by doctors to rebuke the sterilization of their patients.
This book has considered ethics in the context of human vulnerability. We are vulnerable because we can be affected by things across the life span, and we can be affected by things because we are physical beings – part of the world around us and subject to the passage of time. Consequently, a life can come to an end at any time. For this reason, death is not only completely normal, but inevitable. Nevertheless, death is typically regarded as something regrettable. Issues of personhood and autonomy lie at the centre of bioethical debates about the ending of human life, especially where this involves abortion and euthanasia. Against the backdrop of these issues, this chapter provides an overview of the main legal and ethical considerations relating to abortion and euthanasia.
The ‘liberal hour’ of 1960s social reform is normally attributed to Labour party leadership (especially by Roy Jenkins) and to liberal Christian campaigning. This chapter challenges the latter, providing evidence for the key role of Humanists and atheists in leading campaigns for abortion law reform, homosexual law reforms, divorce law reform and euthanasia. It provides a general overview of the medical reform network amongst Humanists, plus three case studies: of Madeleine Simms’ attacks on the churches in the cause of abortion law reform; Eustace Chesser’s advocacy of widening sexual knowledge; and Harold Blackham’s inspirational leadership of campaigns for moral education to be added to the English school curriculum in religious education. What emerges is a new understanding of the ideological foundations for secular reform of medical and moral law in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s.
The debate regarding euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (E/PAS) raises key issues about the role of the doctor, and the professional, ethical, and clinical dimensions of the doctor-patient relationship. This review aimed to examine the published evidence regarding the response of doctors who have participated in E/PAS.
Original research papers were identified reporting either qualitative or qualitative data published in peer-reviewed literature between 1980 and March 2018, with a specific focus on the impact on, or response from, physicians to their participation in E/PAS. PRISMA and CASP guidelines were followed.
Nine relevant papers met selection criteria. Given the limited published data, a descriptive synthesis of quantitative and qualitative findings was performed. Quantitative surveys were limited in scope but identified a mixed set of responses. Where studies measured psychological impact, 30–50% of doctors described emotional burden or discomfort about participation, while findings also identified a comfort or satisfaction in believing the request of the patient was met. Significant, ongoing adverse personal impact was reported between 15% to 20%. A minority of doctors sought personal support, generally from family or friends, rather than colleagues. The themes identified from the qualitative studies were summarized as: 1) coping with a request; 2) understanding the patient; 3) the doctor's role and agency in the death of a patient; 4) the personal impact on the doctor; and 5) professional guidance and support.
Significance of results
Participation in E/PAS can have a significant emotional impact on participating clinicians. For some doctors, participation can contrast with perception of professional roles, responsibilities, and personal expectations. Despite the importance of this issue to medical practice, this is a largely neglected area of empirical research. The limited studies to date highlight the need to address the responses and impact on clinicians, and the support for clinicians as they navigate this challenging area.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate views and attitudes concerning the legality of assisted death and euthanasia in the UK and to identify the circumstances in which individuals would or would not consider assisted death.
Materials and methods:
The views of a sample of the general population in the UK were sought through the use of a mixed methods questionnaire open to the public for 3 weeks.
The responses of 117 participants were analysed using an SPSS MANOVA statistical test for quantitative data and an in-depth content coding analysis for qualitative responses.
The majority of respondents, 85·5%, believed that Physician-Assisted Death (PAD) should be legalised in the UK and that individuals should be able to choose when, 88%, and where, 88·9%, they die. Qualitative analysis revealed that more people would consider a PAD for a severe physical terminal illness over mental illness. There was no statistical significance for variables for quantitative data when considering overall demographics, professional and educational backgrounds of the respondents.
The majority of respondents in this study indicated that they believe assisted suicide should be made legal and that the option should be available for those who are terminally ill. Views indicated that if assisted dying was legal, it would allow terminally ill patients to die with dignity and without prolonging pain.
The legalization of medical assistance in dying (MAID) in Canada has presented an opportunity for physicians, policy makers, and patients to rethink end-of-life care. This article reviews the key features of the Alberta MAID framework and puts it in the context of other provinces and their MAID programs. We also compared policies and MAID practices in different provinces/territories of Canada. In addition, we used the Alberta MAID database to provide the current state of patient demographics and access to MAID services in Alberta in 2017–2018. Significant differences were identified between provincial/territorial MAID program processes and practices. Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec have more comprehensive frameworks. Alberta has dedicated resources to the support of MAID. The median age of those who received MAID service in Alberta from July 2017 to April 2018 was 70 years; a higher proportion were males (55%) and the majority included patients with a cancer diagnosis (70%). Approximately 39 per cent of MAID events happened in a hospital setting, and 38 per cent occurred in patients’ homes. We have presented some recommendations on MAID program development, implementation, and review based on Alberta’s experience with MAID over the past two years.
Unbearable suffering is a key criterion in legally granting patients' euthanasia requests in Belgium yet a generally accepted definition of unbearable suffering remains elusive. The ability to understand and assess unbearable suffering is essential, particularly in patients with psychiatric conditions, as the underlying causes of these conditions are not always apparent. To enable research into when and why suffering experiences incite patients with psychiatric conditions to request euthanasia, and to help explore preventive and curative perspectives, the development of an assessment instrument is needed.
To improve the cognitive validity of a large initial item pool used to assess the nature and extent of suffering in patients with psychiatric conditions.
Cognitive validity was established via two rounds of cognitive interviews with patients with psychiatric conditions with (n = 9) and without (n = 5) euthanasia requests.
During the first round of cognitive interviews, a variety of issues relating to content, form and language were reported and aspects that were missing were identified. During the second round, the items that had been amended were perceived as sufficiently easily to understand, sensitive to delicate nuances, comprehensive and easy to answer accurately. Neither research topic nor method were perceived as emotionally strenuous, but instead as positive, relevant, comforting and valuable.
This research resulted in an item pool that covers the concept of suffering more adequately and comprehensively. Further research endeavours should examine potential differences in suffering experiences over time and in patients with psychiatric conditions with and without euthanasia requests. The appreciation patients demonstrated regarding their ability to speak extensively and openly about their suffering and wish to die further supports the need to allow patients to speak freely and honestly during consultations.
Euthanasia or assisted suicide (EAS) for psychiatric disorders, legal in some countries, remains controversial. Personality disorders are common in psychiatric EAS. They often cause a sense of irremediable suffering and engender complex patient–clinician interactions, both of which could complicate EAS evaluations.
We conducted a directed-content analysis of all psychiatric EAS cases involving personality and related disorders published by the Dutch regional euthanasia review committees (N = 74, from 2011 to October 2017).
Most patients were women (76%, n = 52), often with long, complex clinical histories: 62% had physical comorbidities, 97% had at least one, and 70% had two or more psychiatric comorbidities. They often had a history of suicide attempts (47%), self-harming behavior (27%), and trauma (36%). In 46%, a previous EAS request had been refused. Past psychiatric treatments varied: e.g. hospitalization and psychotherapy were not tried in 27% and 28%, respectively. In 50%, the physician managing their EAS were new to them, a third (36%) did not have a treating psychiatrist at the time of EAS request, and most physicians performing EAS were non-psychiatrists (70%) relying on cross-sectional psychiatric evaluations focusing on EAS eligibility, not treatment. Physicians evaluating such patients appear to be especially emotionally affected compared with when personality disorders are not present.
The EAS evaluation of persons with personality disorders may be challenging and emotionally complex for their evaluators who are often non-psychiatrists. These factors could influence the interpretation of EAS requirements of irremediability, raising issues that merit further discussion and research.
In the early 20th century, a political movement to secure access to euthanasia and assisted suicide began in the United States. The multitude of organizations associated with this effort has undergone an array of mergers, splits, and name changes, channeled through two progenitor organizations—the Euthanasia Society of America and the Hemlock Society. A few chronologies mapping the metamorphoses of these organizations are available, but they are not accessible in the medical literature. Moreover, they are not comprehensive, lack consistency, and are not rigorously validated. As debates about the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide continue, it is important to have a common understanding of the history behind these developments, including recognition of the factors driving these adaptations. In this paper, we offer a comprehensive and definitive history to aid those interested in knowing the roots of these organizations and those that are still active today.
In 2002, The Netherlands continued its leadership in developing rules and jurisdiction regarding euthanasia and end-of-life decisions by implementing the Euthanasia Act, which allows euthanasia for patients 12 years of age and older. Subsequently, in 2005, the regulation on active ending of life for newborns was issued. However, more and more physicians and parents have stated that the age gap between these two regulations—children between 1 and 12 years old—is undesirable. These children should have the same right to end their suffering as adults and newborn infants. An extended debate on pediatric euthanasia ensued, and currently the debate is ongoing as to whether legislation should be altered in order to allow pediatric euthanasia. An emerging major question regards the active ending of life in the context of palliative care: How does a request for active ending of life relate to the care that is given to children in the palliative phase? Until now, the distinction between palliative care and end-of-life decisions continues to remain unclear, making any discussion about their mutual in- and exclusiveness hazardous at best. In this report, therefore, we aim to provide insight into the relationship between pediatric palliative care and end-of-life decisions, as understood in the Netherlands. We do so by first providing an overview of the (legal) rules and regulations regarding euthanasia and active ending of life, followed by an analysis of the relationship between these two, using the Dutch National Guidelines for Palliative Care for Children. The results of this analysis revealed two major and related features of palliative care and end-of-life decisions for children: (1) palliative care and end-of-life decisions are part of the same process, one that focuses both on quality of living and quality of dying, and (2) although physicians are seen as ultimately responsible for making end-of-life decisions, the involvement of parents and children in this decision is of the utmost importance and should be regarded as such.
Fear of life, fear of death, and fear of causing death form a combination that prevents reasoned changes in laws concerning end-of-life situations. This is shown systematically in this article using the methods of conceptual analysis. Prevalent fears are explicated and interpreted to see how their meanings differ depending on the chosen normative stance. When the meanings have been clarified, the impact of the fears on the motivations and justifications of potential legislative reforms are assessed. Two main normative stances are evoked. The first makes an appeal to individual self-determination, or autonomy, and the second to the traditional professional ethics of physicians. These views partly share qualifying elements, including incurability and irreversibility of the patient’s medical condition, proximity of death, the unbearable nature of suffering, and issues of voluntariness further shade the matter. The conclusion is that although many motives to change end-of-life laws are admirable, they are partly contradictory, as are calls for autonomy and appeals to professional ethics; to a degree that good, principled legislative solutions remain improbable in the foreseeable future.