Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 32, Issue 9, pp 1304–1310

“Euthanasia”: a confusing term, abused under the Nazi regime and misused in present end-of-life debate




Legal provisions in The Netherlands and Belgium currently allow physicians to actively end a patient's life at his or her request under certain conditions. The term that is used for this is “euthanasia.”


The same term, “euthanasia,” was used in Germany during the Nazi regime for a program of cleansing the “German nation” in which untold thousands of persons were denied human empathy or medical care and were thereby condemned to death. The medical profession played a leading role in the planning, administration, and supervision of this “euthanasia” program, with a large proportion of German physicians proactively shirking all moral responsibility and ultimately paving the way for the Holocaust.


The term “euthanasia” was so abused during the Nazi regime as a camouflage word for murder of selected subpopulations with the willing participation of physicians, we believe that, regardless of the benevolent goals of current euthanasia practices, for historical reasons the term “euthanasia” must not be used with regards to current end-of-life care.


Euthanasia National Socialism End-of-life care Racial hygiene Intensive care 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care MedicineÜberlingen HospitalÜberlingen/SeeGermany
  2. 2.Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care MedicineKlinikum Friedrich Schiller University JenaJenaGermany

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