A Study of the Readiness of Jewish/Israeli Students in the Health Professions to Authorize and Execute Involuntary Mass Euthanasia of "Severely Handicapped" Patients
Charny, I W
Holocaust and genocide studies 1990; 5(3): 313-35
The responses of 92 Jewish/Israeli students in the health professions in Israel were studied in the context of a projected future situation where the subjects would be working as physicians/psychologists/social workers, first in a developing country somewhere in Africa, and then, in the second experimental scenario, at a well-known treatment institution in the center of Israel. A successive series of constraints were described that led to a scarcity of resources, in which context the health authorities considered it advisable first to limit and then to curtail the treatment of the severely handicapped who could benefit least from treatment, and as the situation became more severe to implement a program of involuntary mass euthanasia. Although an ethical point of view would call for zero participation in the policies which would bring about deaths of patients, it had been predicted that as many as 15% of the subjects would agree to curtailing treatment, 5% to participate in planning involuntary mass euthanasia, and 2% to execute the euthanasia themselves. However, the results were that in African 39% agreed to curtail treatment, 17% to plan euthanasia, and 11% them selves to terminate the patients' lives; in Israel the corresponding figures were 38%, 12%, and 9% - the differences between Africa and Israel were not significant. The study is seen as contributing to emerging knowledge (in the Milgram tradition) of the widespread availability of human beings to undertake policies which harm, hurt and kill other human beings when instructed to do so by a policy directive.
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