Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Euthanasia: or, Medical Treatment in Aid of an Easy Death

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 11 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3322
  1. Colin Brewer, research director of the Stapleford Centre, London SW1W 9NP
  1. brewerismo{at}

I bought a Victorian medical monograph in a second hand bookshop in Sydney during a brief incarnation as ship’s surgeon in the mid 1960s. Its eye catching title was Euthanasia, but the word was used in its original Greek sense of dying pleasantly, rather than in the modern medical sense (crucially preceded by the qualifier “voluntary”) of actually choosing the time and mode of your own death. “There is little to be found in medical writings,” says the author, Dr William Munk, “on the management of the dying . . . The subject is not specially taught in any of our medical schools [and] needs a systemic treatment that has not hitherto been accorded to it.” …

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