A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America

By Ian Dowbiggin | Go to book overview
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5
Not That Simple, 1975–1990

When American euthanasia advocates gathered in New York City in 1974, the mood should have been euphoric. Over the previous decade, the progress of the movement had been astonishing. Speaking openly about death and dying had become fashionable, and a majority of Americans (53 percent) believed that doctors should be allowed to end the lives of terminally ill patients by painless methods if the patients and their families requested it. An even larger majority (62 percent) supported the right of terminally ill patients to refuse unwanted medical treatment. 1 Internationally, other countries were in the process of forming their own euthanasia organizations. It seemed as if interest in the right to die was sweeping the whole world.

However, the overall mood among euthanasia proponents in 1974 was far from buoyant. The Euthanasia Society of America had just been reactivated and renamed the Society for the Right to Die (SRD), the opening act in a sectarian drama that would shortly grip a movement whose unity had long been taken for granted. A split was beginning to form, between those who felt better end-of-life care

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