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Deutsch, F. (1936). Euthanasia: A Clinical Study. Psychoanal Q., 5:347-368.

(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:347-368

Euthanasia: A Clinical Study

Felix Deutsch

Since the death instinct has become recognized as the antithesis of Eros, there have been many important contributions to analytical literature concerning death and the fear of death. Freud has discussed death at considerable length in his essay, Reflections on War and Death, and in his book, Totem and Tabu. My remarks on euthanasia hence do not purport to add anything to what has already been said of the part which a sense of guilt plays in the fear of death, nor to provide fresh evidence that the drama of the fear of death is enacted between the ego and the superego, or that it may be regarded as an elaboration of castration anxiety.

The following exposition is neither literary nor philosophical; that aspect of the subject must, I think, be left to those who specialize in the cultural disciplines. My passing references to belles lettres are, therefore, only incidental.

What I have to contribute has chiefly been learned at the bedside of the fatally ill; it seems to me to have yielded a psychological understanding of peaceful dying. I want to present you with a little picture-book of the dying—illustrations which certainly cannot be said to have a "happy ending", but nevertheless have an ending which does not leave us inconsolable.

A few years ago the following case came under my observation in a hospital.

A young school teacher, who after an operation for cancer of the uterus had developed metastases all over the body, and for whom there was little hope of recovery, was admitted for treatment. The bones in particular had speedily become affected by the malignant disease. There can be no doubt that her rapid loss of strength and her realization of the nature of her illness must have convinced her that there was no chance of cure.

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