April 20, 2024

Euthanasing kings and queens

Hi there,

I confess that my knowledge of Norwegian history is rather scant, so I was surprised to learn that a thoroughly English granddaughter of Queen Victoria was the first modern queen of Norway. The link with bioethics? Well, a Norwegian bestseller claims that she may have been euthanased by her English physician in 1938. (See the story below.) 

This may be lurid speculation, but to my amazement, the author’s principal justification is that the same physician confessed (in his diary, opened 50 years after his own death) that he had euthanased His Majesty George V, by the grace of God King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, in 1936. This, apparently, is old news, as an account of the incident was published in the British Medical Journal in 1994. I had no idea.

Quite interesting, too, is the reason why Lord Dawson of Penn hastened the King’s death: it was more fitting, he thought, that the tragic news appear in the morning edition of the London Times, a sober broadsheet, rather than in those scurrilous afternoon tabloids.

Apparently, Dawson’s expertise was more highly esteemed by the Royal Family than his colleagues. Another leading doctor even composed a jingle:

Lord Dawson of Penn
Has killed lots of men
So that’s why we sing
God Save the King.

Perhaps they should have sung harder. Does anyone have references for further research into this? 


Michael Cook