Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Euthanasia: A Guide to Sources

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Euthanasia: A Guide to Sources

Article excerpt

Euthanasia is a topic of hot debate in social, political, legal, medical, religious, and ethical arenas. It is one of those topics that collection development librarians grapple with when striving to create authoritative, accessible, and useful collections. What are the best books, what journals are needed, and just what issues make up the debate? Kelly Myer Polacek has addressed the topic from a huge range of perspectives, keeping in mind both academic and public library needs. Her article supplies librarians with a critical understanding of the cases key to the current debate; a wealth of foundational articles, critical texts, and core journals important in shaping a reliable collection; and a framework for reference librarians to use when assisting researchers. Polacek obtained an MLS degree (with an emphasis in science librarianship) from Indiana University's School of Library and Information Science in December 2006. She also holds a master's degree in the biological sciences, with an emphasis in science education and physiology. Polacek and her dog, Fran, are registered Pet Partners with the Delta Society.--Editor

Derived from the Greek terms eu meaning good, and thanos meaning death, euthanasia is the act of bringing death to another person in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. Although euthanasia has historically been common practice in many societies, it remains one of the most controversial topics today. In 2005, Jack Kevorkian, also known as "Dr. Death," was denied parole for his involvement in the assisted death of Thomas Youk. Terry Schiavo's death, perhaps the most famous of 2005, was precluded by the unprecedented involvement of her family, the media, and the federal government. These recent events renewed public and professional interest in euthanasia, resulting in hundreds of publications on the topic.

This flurry of publications contributed to the thousands of journal articles, books, magazine and newspaper articles, and Web sites already available. Although much of this material is of unknown authority, valuable information indeed exists within professional, medical, and legal literature, as well as materials from advocacy groups, health resources, and government publications. This guide collects those resources and fills a gap currently existing among collection development and evaluation tools. It is unique in its breadth of coverage, including biased and unbiased Web sites, databases, and scholarly and popular writings, which discuss the legal, ethical, philosophical, medical, historical, national, international, and practical issues surrounding the topic of euthanasia. It is a timely and comprehensive portal for a range of libraries and researcher needs.

Libraries with limited budgets can simply add the books listed here, and in doing so, meet the information needs of their users. The diverse perspectives of the materials listed in the guide can be considered by academic libraries with larger scopes and budgets and will supplement existing collections and fill any gaps in coverage. Public libraries can create a multiauthor, multiperspective collection with as little as two or three books by considering the selection of Greenhaven Press publications and works from famous cases listed below. This guide could also serve as a collection development tool for health science and medical libraries. Health practitioners will appreciate the currency of information available in the Internet sources and periodicals suggested, while the search strategies for databases make excellent starting points for academics and other researchers. Finally, even though assisted suicide is legal only in the State of Oregon, there are many methods, such as living wills and power-of-attorney, used to declare varying end-of-life intents. Those needing clarification on the legality of these documents will also find practical information in this guide. The author thanks Lokman Meho and Douglas R. …

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