The Euthanasia/Assisted-Suicide Debate

by Demetra M. Pappas


Merciful ending or death on demand? The euthanasia and assisted-suicide debate challenges our most deeply held ethical and religious convictions about human life and dignity.

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September 2012


Pages 183
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/Human Rights and Civil Liberties

This revealing volume explores recent historical perspectives on the modern euthanasia and assisted-suicide debate and the political arenas in which it has unfolded.

Emotional public responses to widely publicized right-to-die and euthanasia cases, such as those revolving around Dr. Jack Kevorkian and Terri Schiavo, highlight their volatile mix of medical, ethical, religious, legal, and public policy issues. The Euthanasia/Assisted-Suicide Debate explores how this debate has evolved over the past 100 years as judicial approaches, legislative responses, and prosecutorial practices have shifted as a result of changes in medical technology and consumer sophistication.

Emphasizing the period from the 1950s forward, the book offers an unbiased examination of the origins of the modern medical euthanasia and assisted-suicide debates, the involvement of physicians, the history and significance of medical technology and practice, and the role of patients and their families in the ongoing controversy. This illuminating exploration of concepts, issues, and players will help readers understand both sides of the debate as viewed by participants.


  • Case studies explain contemporary legal techniques in the handling of euthanasia and assisted-suicide prosecutions, including those involving doctors, nurses, and family members
  • A chronology shows political events and major cases of medical euthanasia and assisted suicide over the past 100 years
  • A glossary explains key terms, such as "causation," "intent," "palliative care," and "double effect"
  • An interdisciplinary bibliography cites significant materials from the fields of history, law, and sociology, as well as major medical journal articles


  • Gathers and considers important developments from the past 60 years regarding how doctors who engage in euthanasia or assisted suicide are treated by the criminal justice system
  • Covers five decades of euthanasia and assisted-suicide cases, offering material that has contemporary relevance
  • Includes discussion of how legislators approach the euthanasia and assisted-suicide debate
Author Info

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, holds a law degree from Fordham University School of Law and a master of science degree in criminal justice policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). In 2009, she defended her doctoral work, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian, also at LSE (Departments of Law and Sociology). In addition to her work on end-of-life issues, she writes about a number of other subjects, including emerging legislation, criminal law, criminology, sociological representations of celebrity and the media, sociology of medicine, dramaturgical representations in the sociological and legal contexts, culinary culture/food studies, visual sociology, and pedagogical methodology. Pappas earned the 1997 William Robson Memorial Prize for her ethnographic study in Minnesota regarding antistalking mechanisms. Most recently, she was awarded the SGA (Student Government Association) Faculty Member of the Year Award 2011–2012 at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, NY, for her teaching in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice.



"The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate is a thorough yet concise review of the history and development of medical euthanasia and assisted suicide. . . . Part of Greenwood's Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America series, this offers complete coverage of every aspect of the euthanasia debate and would be a great addition to public, high school, and undergraduate libraries. This book removes the typical pro-con approach taken with controversial topics and simply provides information—leaving readers to arrive at their own conclusions, making it an invaluable resource for students."Booklist

"This book provides a cogent and systematic analysis of the issue. Arguments against euthanasia as well as those supporting it are well presented here."ARBA

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