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Controversial Issues-Euthanasia
Kelly Myer Polaceka a Main Library 011, Bloomington, IN, USA

To cite this Article Polacek, Kelly Myer(2007) 'Controversial Issues-Euthanasia', Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 26:

2, 65 — 74

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MLS (kpolacek@indiana. Gruwell (gruwell@umn. and economic implications. Comments and suggestions should be sent to the Column Editors: Cindy © 2007 by The Haworth Press. legal. These challenges include finding more highly charged rhetoric than unbiased facts. The editors hope that this second article in the “Controversial Issues” series will assist librarians and information specialists in finding unbiased and reasoned information on the topic. cloning. abortion. All rights reserved. medical. Inc. and requiring information on many non-care issues.1300/J115v26n02_06 65 . Summer 2007 Available online at http://mrsq.dawn@mayo. for example. Vol. Medical Reference Services Quarterly. and Dawn Littleton (littleton. Seekers of information about controversial issues are faced with a multitude of challenges to find neutral information. 26(2). doi:10. Controversial Issues: Euthanasia–A Guide to Resources Kelly Myer Polacek ABSTRACT. Gruwell and Dawn Littleton. euthanasia. 1320 East 10th Street. political. social. A guide to the topic “euthanasia” is presented to users seeking balanced and neutral resources. filtering out one’s own strongly held position. Main Library 011. The purpose of this resource guide is to provide health is Librarian. MS. Column Editors Editors’ Note Downloaded By: [University of Ottawa] At: 20:27 6 April 2011 Practicing librarians know that many health-related topics. for example. cultural. can be extremely controversial.NAVIGATE THE NET Cindy A. We invite additional submissions by authors willing to provide guidance in other highly-debated subject areas. IN 47405. and large libraries a description of the content and Kelly Myer Polacek.

The recent events surrounding Terry Schiavo’s death resulted in a resurfacing of individual and public interests in euthanasia. and sometimes confusing issue can themselves also be debatable.e.” • Active euthanasia occurs when death results from a direct action. religious.e. among others. The eight most frequently retrieved sites are discussed here with attention paid to position (i. These acts include stopping treatment and medications. aid in dying requested of a spouse). This paper briefly describes euthanasia and reviews several popular Web sites that provide information on the topic. Today. living will. E-mail address: <docdelivery@haworthpress. degree and quality of linkage.2. Inc.HaworthPress. or other forms of life support in order to “let nature take its course. Sources of information about this highly-debated.1300/J115v26n02_06 [Article copies available for a fee from The Downloaded By: [University of Ottawa] At: 20:27 6 April 2011 Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. Euthanasia.. At least six distinct aspects of euthanasia have been described.3 • Passive euthanasia includes any act in which a person is allowed to die. doi:10. All rights reserved. controversial. and mercy killing. each of these terms describes a particular feature or act of euthanasia.. and thanos meaning death). Euthanasia is often used interchangeably with passive euthanasia. physician-assisted suicide. usually in response to a request from that person. and social groups. pro. and confusing. the topic of euthanasia sparks heated debates among political.or anti-euthanasia). com> © 2007 by The Haworth Press. water. These descriptions should help librarians direct their users to appropriate sources of information about euthanasia on the Web. and uniqueness of information provided. physician-assisted suicide. In fact. controversial. end-of-life. ceasing food. voluntary euthanasia.> Website: <http://www. assisted suicide. .66 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY features of the most popular Web sites on euthanasia. bibliography INTRODUCTION In its simplest form. Active euthanasia is typically performed by health care professionals (see: Physician-Assisted Suicide) or loved ones (i. authority.] KEYWORDS. euthanasia is the practice of “good death” (from the Greek eu meaning good. The redundancy in results of searches of the term “euthanasia” in multiple search engines indicates the high likelihood that information seekers will be directed to one or more of these sites.

sponsored links were excluded. physician-assisted suicide. or neutrality. further confusing individuals seeking basic information on the topic. Even more challenging are sites that use these terms. all without an obvious platform statement of pro-euthanasia. In general. individuals. some groups distinguish themselves by adding a twist to one or more terms. searches of the term “euthanasia” were conducted using the following search engines: MSN Search. this type of euthanasia typically occurs in people who are in a persistent vegetative state who previously did not state their end-of-life wishes. In the United States. and just eight sites represented 66% of results (see Table 1). some of them interchangeably.4 Health care providers. also known as mercy killing when the suicide is assisted by someone other than a physician. • Involuntary euthanasia occurs when euthanasia is performed against the wishes of a person/proxy. Some of these scenarios can be combined. as described above earlier. The first ten results of each search were compared across engines. When performed. Of the 50 retrieved sites. three were opposed to Downloaded By: [University of Ottawa] At: 20:27 6 April 2011 . For example. • Nonvoluntary euthanasia occurs when (1) a person/proxy has not explicitly requested assistance in dying. However. the reader is often misled. Involuntary euthanasia can be passive or active. less than half (21 of 50) were unique. euthanasia is nevertheless practiced by health care professionals and/or support groups. anti-euthanasia. Of the eight sites that comprised 66% of results. • Voluntary euthanasia is when death follows a fully-informed request from a fully-competent adult or that of an assigned proxy such as a health care power-of-attorney. which adds yet another layer to the discussion of euthanasia. these specifications facilitate discussion. physician-assisted suicide is legal only in the state of Oregon. and Ask. Google Search. (3) a person/proxy lacks competence to make such a request. or. This is generally considered murder. In July 2006. (2) the request for. confused. but does not directly cause the death Search.Navigate the Net 67 • Physician-Assisted Suicide occurs when a physician provides the means for a patient to end his own life. In these instances. and families in need of information will benefit from the evaluations and annotations provided in these popular Web resources. researchers. Yahoo! Search. URLs for the sites in Table 1 are available in the Appendix. Examples include prescriptions for sleeping pills or barbiturates. or the consent to. or simply unable to use the material provided. euthanasia are not fully-informed. AOL Search. is a form of voluntary euthanasia. Despite the fact that it is illegal in most states.

one was in favor of euthanasia. euthanasia. and one was ethical rather than positional in nature. 71% of the unique sites (15 of 21) focused on the topic euthanasia in humans and provided either an obvious or interpretable position statement (see Table 2). or veterinary in nature. Total: Frequency 6** 5 5 4 4 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 50 Position Anti-euthanasia Anti-euthanasia Neutral Ethics Neutral Anti-euthanasia Pro-euthanasia Veterinary Ethics Pro-euthanasia Anti-euthanasia Pro-euthanasia Anti-euthanasia Pro-euthanasia Anti-euthanasia Veterinary Neutral Pro-euthanasia Pro-euthanasia Anti-euthanasia Neutral Downloaded By: [University of Ottawa] At: 20:27 6 April 2011 *see Appendix for direct URLs. The remaining six sites were International Taskforce on Euthanasia Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance University of San Diego Ethics Updates Wikipedia National Right to Life Church of Euthanasia American Veterinary Medical Association Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Final Exit Priests for Life Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization Theology Library at Spring Hill College Canadian Mind Products Catholic Encyclopedia University of Iowa Animal Research University of Edinburgh Student Projects World Right to Die Dignity in Dying Not Dead Yet Dictionary. one discussed euthanasia in non-human animals. This likelihood merits an evaluation of the information provided at these sites. In . two were neutral. Unique Web Sites Retrieved from Searches of the Term “Euthanasia” in Five Popular Search Engines Group or Site* Euthanasia.68 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY TABLE none of these eight sites is devoted to the research and discussion of the legal aspects of this controversial topic. despite their popularity. **International Taskforce on Euthanasia twice in the first 10 results from Ask. The redundancy of sites among the results of multiple search engines suggests the average information seeker will be directed to at least one of these sites. with two different URLS leading to same site. ethical. In all.

suicide. The sites listed here have been reviewed extensively for definitions. reviewed and discussed here. descriptions. firearms.). the authorship. The annotations and links to these sites are ideal additions to libraries’ own Internet resources pages. and links to. as suggested by>.org> Serving as the Web site of Hemlock Society founder Derek Humphrey. and position>) with detailed methodology for killing oneself (using gas. hanging. sites describing its members’ . Of note are links to Voluntary Human Extinction Movement <http://vhemt.” This site is among the top eight that represent 66% of the retrieved results and was.> From their site: “Save the planet. Kill yourself. Whenever possible. calling the event erotic and pornographic. Frequency and Distribution of Sites’ Positional Stances Position Anti-euthanasia Pro-euthanasia Neutral Veterinary Ethics Frequency 7 6 3 3 2 Distribution (%) 33 29 14 14 10 69 Downloaded By: [University of Ottawa] At: 20:27 6 April 2011 the interest of providing librarians with a useful tool for assisting their own patrons. EUTHANASIA WEB SITES Church of Euthanasia <http://ChurchOfEuthanasia. and the Central Intelligence Agency’s fact book on overpopulation. It proudly offers video footage of the World Trade Center bombings. the alt. ERGO contains information about. This site is not for the faint of heart.spaink. The obvious pro-euthanasia position is coupled with an offensive content warning.5 All of these sites are freely available to the public. ERGO: Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization <http://Finalexit. therefore. site (found at <http://ash. etc. and degree of internal and external linking are reported. Despite its extremism and devotion to shock value. the site links to information not found on the other sites listed here. two legal Web sites that did not appear among the results are discussed here. poison.Navigate the Net TABLE 2.

‘right-to-die’ cases. which also hosts a blog and an online bookstore. Nevertheless. .70 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY efforts to change laws and policy.InternationalTaskForce. is unique in that it considers intention the defining characteristic of euthanasia. Euthanasia. giving the appearance of different content when in fact it is redundant. the user is lead to a significant quantity of primary source articles. Essays and reports about the practice of euthanasia make up the basis for this site. the American Nursing Association. Ethics Updates–University of San Diego <http://ethics. surveys. International Taskforce on Euthanasia <http://www. advance directives. which is located under the “Applied Ethics” column on the home page. court> Downloaded By: [University of Ottawa] At: 20:27 6 April 2011 From their site: “Ethics Updates is. and the Vatican. although some of the information is dated. at least half of which link to articles on external> From their home page: “Addressing the issues of euthanasia. and self-deliverance. . Humphrey’s Web site provides a variety of links. The body of the home page is a series of annotated links that are repeated in the left column. excluding acts that are considered passive euthanasia in most other discussions. . and much. this site prominently states: “We are committed to the fundamental belief that the intentional killing of another person is wrong. dedicated to promoting the thoughtful discussion of difficult moral issues. We have deep sympathy for those people who are <> As the number one result in all the search engines used. assisted suicide proposals. disability rights. pain control. Unlike other euthanasia sites.” Euthanasia. euthanasia practices in the Netherlands. this site contains over 500 links. are all appropriate life endings depending on individual medical and ethical circumstances. lectures. physician-assisted suicide. such as policy statements by the American Medical Association. . Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization (ERGO) holds that voluntary euthanasia.” This is exactly what this Web site does. includes multimedia resources.sandiego. Contained within are popular and professional resources on a variety of ethical topics. and a mix of information-based Web sites. A well-known advocate of euthanasia.euthanasia. assisted suicide.

and unique documents such as a PDF copy of Terry Schiavo’s autopsy report. The site has an obvious position statement. and various international newspapers. Also included are legal briefs. The “essays” (written by the membership) within the site contain descriptions of history. The overt and thorough “About Us” and “Belief Statement” convey the site’s neutral and “tolerant” platform.Navigate the Net 71 much more.” This national organization is known primarily for its anti-abortion initiatives but is actually involved in several right-to-life issues. . Library of Congress: Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room–State Information <http://LOC. .org> From their site: “Euthanasia is the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit.religioustolerance. The site includes links to articles from news sites such as CNN. Although biased. or other formal document. government publications. and euthanasia. . living wills.html> Individuals can express their end-of-life wishes in a power-of-attorney.” The members of this site provide the majority of the content. Religious* with added links where they deem appropriate. Unfortunately. particularly in regard to “hot <http://www.htm> This multi-faith. multi-authored site focuses on disseminating accurate religious information. and platform statements. The legal merit of these documents varies by state as well as by document type. living will. defines euthanasia specifically. religious documents. the links are not well organized within the site. National Right to Life <http://nrlc.” This site offers a variety of information via links to external anti-euthanasia sites. it is an excellent resource for legal information about euthanasia around the world. Downloaded By: [University of Ottawa] At: 20:27 6 April 2011 . the Washington Times. and require a great deal of “hunting and pecking” on the part of the user. are often repeated. including infanticide. with particular focus on the United States and the Netherlands. Euthanasia can be found as a “Hot Topic” link via the home page or by entering “euthanasia” in the Google site search box. and provides links to press releases and news articles. State information is not listed individually here but can be accessed via the Library of Congress Web site.

a summary.LOC. and other topics. and a current status are available. THOMAS: Legislative Information from the Library of Congress <http://Thomas. national and international issues. it boasts more than 25 internal euthanasia-related links (including those to definitions. anti-euthanasia. . useable information on the Web. or neutral. CONCLUSION Euthanasia is a dynamic and controversial topic. Nevertheless. understandable.72 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY One significant drawback to this site is the prevalent advertising throughout its essays.7 The euthanasia article at Wikipedia can be found by entering “euthanasia” in the search box on its home page. the distractions are worth tolerating as this site provides some of the most accessible. Ads often appear directly in the center of the article. famous people. of which only four are external. The presenting table of contents allows the reader easy navigation among definitions. congressional references. This resource guide should help librarians and their patrons locate useful.6 thus giving merit to these ubiquitous information sources. As evidenced by the sites described> Recent studies have shown the accuracy of online encyclopedias to be comparable to their print counterparts. As our population ages and health care improves. For each bill. Wikipedia <http://www. search all available sessions of Congress using an ordered proximity search #1(assisted suicide).000 word article contains a scant 13 references. giving the appearance that the article has ended when it actually continues beyond the advertisement. as well as begin to develop a broad understanding of the difficult topic of euthanasia. ethics. currency. and famous cases) as well as a unique listing of 23 external sites categorized as pro-euthanasia. The 4. For best results. the question of when and how we die is becoming increasingly common. Nevertheless. information available about euthanasia on the Web is diverse in its> Downloaded By: [University of Ottawa] At: 20:27 6 April 2011 Legislative documents such as The Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act of 1997 and the Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999 are freely available online in full text. and ethical position. and neutral information available. y) .internationaltaskforce.internationaltaskforce. 2002. Wikipedia contributors. g.library. 2006. Accessed: December 13. 7. Available: <http://en.1300/J115v26n02_06 APPENDIX Specific URLS Retrieved from Searches of the Term “Euthanasia” in Five Popular Search Engines Frequency = number of times site appeared among 50 possible results.iaetf.L. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (k) http://www. Inc.” Presented at the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Accessed: July19. 3. CT: Yale University Press. 2005): 900-1. y) http://www. Accessed: August 16. a.htm (m) Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 5 http://www. and Herring. J.. m. “Internet Encyclopaedias Go Head to Head. Downloaded By: [University of Ottawa] At: 20:27 6 April 2011 doi:10. New Haven. Hawaii.html (y) International Taskforce on Euthanasia 5 http://www. W. a) http://www. 2004. “Evaluating Information Found on the definitions. 2006. P. The Free Encyclopedia. 2005. org/ (k. 4. m. 5. R. E. and Ballis. NY: Facts on File. Giles. org/holland. 2006. htm>.. Emigh.” Nature 438(December 15. S. g. and Farberow.jhu.Navigate the Net 73 REFERENCES 1.php?title=Euthanasia&oldid=70316399>.com/ (k. Kirk. 2.” Available: <http://www. Angels of Death: Exploring the Euthanasia Underground.htm (k. Group or Site Euthanasia. “ euthanas. g. Searches conducted July 19.H.euthanasia. Evans. 2003.”>.com Frequency 6 URL and Search Engine*** http://www.. “Collaborative Authoring on the Web: A Genre Analysis of Online Encyclopedias. 6.” (1996). Available: <http://www.S.wikipedia.E. Encyclopedia of Suicide.. “Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS).religioustolerance. Magnusson. G.religioustolerance.

dignityindying.notdeadyet. a) (g. y) Euthanasia ( ( 2 http://www.portfolio.asp . euthanasia/ (g. a) euthanasia-voluntary/ ( 05630a. (y) = Yahoo! ****Has since changed to: http://ethics.html (y) http://www.priestsforlife.74 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY APPENDIX (continued) Group or Site University of San Diego Ethics Updates Wikipedia National Right to Life Church of Euthanasia Downloaded By: [University of Ottawa] At: 20:27 6 April 2011 Frequency 4 4 3 3 3 URL and Search Engine*** animal/?get=euthanasia (y) http://www.nrlc. animatedjourneys/goodbyefriend/ euthanasia/euthanasia.churchofeuthanasia.htm (m) euthanasia. a. g. a) 1 1 1 1 1 http://www. (g.asp (m) American Veterinary Medical Association Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Final Exit Priests for Life 2 2 2 http://plato. y) (k) (k) (y) com/search?q=euthanasia (m) 1 1 1 1 ***Search engines: (k) = Ask. (g) = Google.acusd. html**** (k. (a) = studentwebs/session3/55/efor4. m) http://www.pdf (g. m) http://www. m) (k) http://dictionary.avma. htm (k) http://www.stanford.htm (y) http://mindprod. (m) = MSN.newadvent.html (y) Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization Theology Library at Spring Hill College Canadian Mind Products Catholic Encyclopedia University of Iowa Animal Research University of Edinburgh Student Projects World Right to Die Dignity in Dying Not Dead Yet Dictionary.worldrtd.