All too infrequently, physicians probe the philosophical underpinnings of their profession. Periodically, however, there is increased professional awareness of sociomedical issues, usually subsequent to periods of intense public involvement. Questions raised by the Karen Quinlan case, thalidomide babies, or, currently, abortion and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome are prime examples.
Ending Lives is a provocative book that examines the philosophical positions addressing suicide and euthanasia. Both are major issues confronting contemporary society and are divisive in nature, partially owing to misunderstanding of complexities and the ease of developing polar positions. The aversion to suicide is so great in the western world that until the mid-19th century, suicide was regarded by the law as a crime ranked with homicide or murder (p 17). Only in the latter half of our century have most persons regarded the typical suicide victim as someone either psychologically ill or "in need of help." In opting for