Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.

Physician-Assisted Death
Physician-assisted death

Physician-assisted death is not a new invention. Voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide were commonly practiced in ancient Greece and Rome to spare people of high social rank from prolonged suffering. The Hippocratic Oath, with its stance against physician-assisted death, represented a minority opinion among Greek physicians at the time it was written (Brogden 2001).

In modern times, the topic of physician-assisted death has gained prominence in the United States owing in part to the publicized deaths assisted by Dr. Jack Kevorkian and in part to Americans' general concerns about suffering painful, slow, and ...

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