S18. The History of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide

      Historically, the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians does not support euthanasia nor physician-assisted suicide, “Nor shall any man’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so.” However, poison hemlock was used for euthanasia in Ancient Greece and Rome. Working similarly to curare, it would cause respiratory paralysis and death. In the 1870s, a nonphysician named Samuel Williams advocated for the use of “chloroform or such other anaesthetic as may by-and-bye supersede chloroform to put the sufferer to a quick and painless death.” The American Medical Association responded with opposition, stating the euthanasia proposal was “an attempt to make the physician don the robes of an executioner.” In 1915, a surgeon named Dr. Haiselden withheld possible lifesaving surgery to a newborn with multiple deformities. In 1936, the physician Lord Dawson gave King George V a fatal dose of morphine and cocaine via the jugular vein to hasten his death from bronchitis, to give him the “dignity and serenity which he so richly merited.”
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