How far will the right-to-die movement go?

More states may legalize euthanasia for terminally ill patients. But even where it is allowed, some doctors still refuse to offer it

By Mattie Quinn | Governing

Primum non nocere. First, do no harm. Medical students have been taking this vow since Hippocrates came up with it in ancient Greece in the fifth century B.C. It is universally acknowledged to be the foundation of Western medicine. But the Hippocratic oath isn’t as black or white as it once seemed.

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Nowadays, people are living longer than ever — with diseases that Hippocrates could never have imagined — and in circumstances in which a doctor could end their suffering. For more than a century, some American physicians have been arguing for a patient’s right to choose death, and for doctors to be able to assist in the process. The first euthanasia bill was introduced in Ohio in 1905. It failed, but academic papers and state legislation on right-to-die policies have been part of the medical landscape ever since.


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February 2018