Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/635

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617
NATURAL EUTHANASIA.

1737), who succeeded in sending electricity through 1,256 feet of moist packthread.

A little reflection will enable you to vary these experiments indefinitely. Rub your excited sealing-wax or glass against the tin plate of your electroscope, and cause the leaves to diverge. Touch the plate with any one of the conductors mentioned in the list; the electroscope is immediately discharged. Touch it with a semi-conductor; the leaves fall as before, but less promptly. Touch the plate finally with an insulator; the electricity cannot pass, and the leaves remain unchanged.

 
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NATURAL EUTHANASIA.[1]
By B. W. RICHARDSON, M. D., F. R. S.

BY the strict law of Nature a man should die as unconscious of his death as of his birth.

Subjected at birth to what would be, in the after-conscious state, an ordeal to which the most cruel of deaths were not possibly more severe, he sleeps through the process, and only upon the subsequent awakening feels the impressions, painful or pleasant, of the world into which he is delivered. In this instance the perfect law is fulfilled, because the carrying of it out is retained by Nature herself: human free-will and the caprice that springs from it have no influence.

By the hand of Nature death were equally a painless portion. The cycle of life completed, the living being sleeps into death when Nature has her way.

This purely painless process, this descent by oblivious trance into oblivion, this natural physical death, is the true euthanasia; and it is the duty of those we call physicians to secure for man such good health as shall bear him in activity and happiness onward in his course to this goal. For euthanasia, though it be open to every one born of every race, is not to be had by any save through obedience to those laws which it is the mission of the physician to learn, to teach, and to enforce. Euthanasia is the sequel of health, the happy death engrafted on the perfect life.

When the physician has taught the world how this benign process of Nature may be secured, and the world has accepted the lesson, death itself will be practically banished; it will be divested equally of fear, of sorrow, of suffering. It will come as a sleep.

If you ask what proof there is of the possibility of such a consummation, I point to our knowledge of the natural phenomena of one

  1. From "Diseases of Modern Life," by Dr. B. W. Richardson, now in press of D. Appleton & Co.