oa South African Journal of Bioethics and Law - Should the state support the 'right to die'?

Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1999-7639



Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (hereafter E/PAS) is a practice with a long history. It was a frequent occurrence in the Ancient World, despite the prohibitions of the Hippocratic Oath (which had no legal standing and was supported by a minority of Greco-Roman physicians). It was condemned as murder by the Christian community and prohibited in Christian Europe (though - like abortion - was no doubt practised secretly). Strong support and advocacy for E/PAS re-emerged in the 19th century in Europe and North America. The first attempts to legalise it, in a number of states in the USA, were defeated in the early 1900s, though voluntary euthanasia societies advocating for reform of existing laws proliferated there and throughout Europe. Although not legal, cases brought before the courts - particularly in the USA, Britain and The Netherlands - were treated with remarkable leniency.

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