Lebensunwertes Leben: the devolution of personhood in the Weimar and pre-Weimar era

Ethics Med. 2005 Spring;21(1):41-54.


Radical social change in most societies does not typically occur "overnight." It requires preparation--preparation in the way people think. The rise of euthanasia in western culture is a case in point. In order for assisted death to be increasingly accepted, the social-moral consensus must be altered. Typically, that consensus will be influenced by trends in biology, the behavioral sciences, ethics, law, even economics. Examining the manner in which assisted death was "prepared" in the decades before the ascendency of National Socialism is highly instructive as we witness the rise of euthanatic thinking in our own day several generations removed.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Dehumanization*
  • Disabled Persons
  • Economics
  • Empathy
  • Eugenics / history
  • Euthanasia, Active / history*
  • Germany
  • History, 20th Century
  • Homicide
  • Human Rights Abuses / history*
  • Humans
  • National Socialism
  • Personhood
  • Political Systems / history*
  • Right to Die / legislation & jurisprudence