Article: The final step: the issue of euthanasia of people with mental disabilities in Denmark by Jesper Vaczy Kragh

A recent article appeared in the journal Disability & Society:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09687599.2018.1504744

A number of Danish studies on the history of mental disability have been published in recent years, yet little attention has been devoted to the issue of euthanasia. It has been assumed that the Danes generally opposed radical German ideas about euthanasia of people with disabilities, especially after 1945. This article, however, will contend that a breeding ground for euthanasia was created during the early twentieth century and that many Danes were influenced by Nazi propaganda in the 1940s. Debates about euthanasia of people with mental disabilities continued way up to the 1970s. In fact, discussions about euthanasia or ‘mercy killing’ (medlidenhedsdrab) had their heyday in the years after World War II. Actual cases of ‘mercy killing’ of mentally disabled children appeared in this period. This article will argue that knowledge about the past is important in light of current debates in Europe about similar issues.

Keywords: Disability history, euthanasia, sterilisation, Nazism, psychiatry

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